California health officials on watch for omicron variant

California public health officials said Sunday they are watching for the omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus and stepping up vaccination and booster efforts.

"California is closely monitoring the new omicron variant, which has not yet arrived in California or the U.S.," Dr. Tomas Aragon, director of the California Department of Public Health said Sunday.

Vaccines are the best way to protect against serious illness from the COVID-19 and its variants, he said.

"We are doubling down on our vaccination and booster efforts to ensure that all Californians have access to safe, effective, and free vaccines that can prevent serious illness and death," Aragon said in a statement.

 The new variant, first reported by South Africa to the World Health Organization, has been classified as "a variant of concern."

SEE ALSO: Fauci would 'not be surprised' if omicron is already in US, predicts it will go 'all over'

President Joe Biden on Friday issued restrictions for travelers who have been in South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia or Zimbabwe.

Travelers who have been to those countries within the last 14 days must follow Centers for Disease Control recommendations to get tested 3-5 days after arrival, quarantine for seven days even if testing negative, and isolate for 10 days if COVID-19 symptoms develop.   More information is available at