Omicron found in Garfield, 3 other Colorado counties
Cases of the new omicron variant have now been detected in four Colorado counties, as experts say it is quickly becoming the dominant variant across the country.
In a news conference Thursday, Gov. Jared Polis said state health officials believe they have identified the first case of community spread due to the variant.
“We now face a new threat with the omicron variant,” Polis said. “It is only a matter of time until it becomes the prevalent variant here in Colorado as it has in every other place it has been.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert about community spread of the variant in the U.S. on Dec. 10 and then stressed the need for vaccinated people to get a booster shot. On Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told CNN he expected the variant to fuel record numbers of COVID-19 cases.
Fauci said the variant is doubling ever two or three days, and in some parts of the country, it is already responsible for half the cases of the virus. The new variant has been detected in 44 different states, according to The New York Times.
Omicron has not yet been detected in Routt County, though one of the five cases is from Garfield County on the Western Slope. The other cases were found in Boulder, Jefferson and Arapahoe counties.
Lauren Bryan, infection preventionist at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center, said omicron is replicating about 70 times faster than the delta variant, and that replication is happening higher in the respiratory system than other variants.
“That could be why it’s easier to transmit. You don’t have to have a deep, hefty, hardy cough,” Bryan said. “It means if I’m in a group of 10 people, instead of infecting two, I could probably infect eight.”
Like experts at every level of health care, Bryan said getting vaccinated and boosted is still the best way to protect oneself from the variant. Boosters are important in addition to vaccination, she said, because the vaccines’ efficacy after six months can vary between people.
“There is no way to really measure that other than getting sick or not,” Bryan said. “I wouldn’t want to sign up for that for sure.”
Despite the variant, Routt County is seeing the lowest level of cases since early August, reporting just 27 cases in the past week.
The positivity rate has fallen, as well, dipping under 2% for the first time since July last week. Still, Bryan said like the delta variant did, omicron could quickly become the dominant variant and lead to a increases in cases.
“Every phase, it seems like it can’t get more transmissible, and then it gets more transmissible,” Bryan said. “Delta got significantly more transmissible, and now omicron seems like it’s blowing that out of the water.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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Since Christmas, about 6% of all Routt County residents have tested positive for COVID-19. About a quarter of all cases locally since the start of the pandemic have come since Dec. 26.