More COVID cases emerge connected to Anime NYC after Omicron scare

By Keane Eacobellis

Health officials reported last Thursday that the second confirmed case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in the United States had been identified in a man who attended Anime NYC last month. Over the weekend, more positive cases of COVID-19 were identified among attendees of the event held in Manhattan’s Javits Center. Of the 53,000 people in attendance the weekend of Nov. 19 to Nov. 21, only one other possible case of Omicron transmission has been identified.

The Washington Post first reported on Friday that friends of the man who contracted Omicron, who also attended the convention, had also tested positive for COVID-19. None of the other cases have been identified as Omicron by their respective states.

On Sunday, the New York Times identified patient zero as 30-year-old Peter McGinn. Of the estimated 30 friends he saw over the weekend, McGinn estimated half had tested positive but are in good health. 

When and where exactly McGinn was infected remain important unknowns.

“It remains unclear if the anime convention was a super spreader event,” the Times reported, saying that “so far the authorities have yet to confirm any transmission of Omicron at the Anime NYC convention.” Test and Trace Corps director Ted Long said that he’s aware of five city residents that tested positive for COVID-19 after attending the convention, but a spokesman for New York City’s contact tracing program told the outlet there was no evidence of widespread transmission.

Event organizer LeftField Media’s president Kelly Comboni told the Times “there have been no other mass cases reported from our event.”

On Saturday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office announced that the total number of identified cases of the COVID-19 Omicron variant in the state reached eight, though none have been traced to the convention. “While all of these cases are believed to be unrelated to the recent Anime NYC convention at the Javits Center,” the governor said in a press release, “the Department still urges anyone who attended to get tested for COVID-19 and wear a mask in public places.”

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont’s office said in a statement on Saturday that the state had identified its first case of Omicron, and that a family member of the individual had attended Anime NYC and also tested positive for COVID-19. It is possible that the family member in attendance carried the infection to the state. 

As testing and contact tracing efforts continue, we can expect to get a better idea of the extent of spread from the first major anime convention since the pandemic began.