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Dogged source work, preparation deliver scoop on 1st US omicron case

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during the daily briefing at the White House, Dec. 1, 2021. Fauci discussed the first confirmed U.S. case of the omicron COVID variant in California. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

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AP’s lead Justice Department reporter Mike Balsamo and White House reporter Zeke Miller teamed up to score a major beat on news of the first case of the omicron variant in the United States.

Balsamo, one of the best-sourced reporters in the AP, knew omicron was headed toward the U.S. and kept in close touch with his contacts, circling back repeatedly to ask whether the virus had been identified on U.S. soil.

When he finally got word from a rock-solid source, Balsamo went to Miller, who also had been chasing the story and quickly confirmed it. The two moved lightning fast, writing a story off Miller’s smart prep reporting. Leveraging their sources, they had an alert on the wire within four minutes, and a story moved about three minutes later.

They beat the official announcement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — that the first known omicron case had been detected in California — by just a few minutes but in the world of competitive scoops,minutes can feel like hours. TV,radio, major websites all used AP’s story on one of the most highly anticipated stories of the week.

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