Routt County public health director says omicron variant likely already in the county |

Routt County public health director says omicron variant likely already in the county

Weeks could pass before the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment confirms it, but Routt County Public Health Director Roberta Smith is fairly certain the omicron COVID-19 variant has already reached Routt County.

Smith said key signatures of the variant have been identified in samples from Routt County, suggesting its presence here. All PCR tests are sent to CDPHE for sequencing, and within weeks, the department will know for sure if omicron has reached Routt County.

Because it will take weeks to confirm the variant’s presence in Routt, Smith is encouraging residents and visitors to be extra diligent around the holidays, as more people are traveling to the area, and restaurants and hotels are expected to fill up.

Vaccines are still the safest and most effective way to slow the spread of COVID-19 and its variants, as well as protect oneself against severe illness, hospitalization and death, Smith said.

Those ages 18 and older who received the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna at least six months ago or received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago for their initial dose are encouraged to receive a booster, which all pharmacies in Routt County are offering.

Colorado announced its first case of the omicron variant in Arapahoe County on Dec. 2. The first case was detected in a woman who had traveled to South Africa and was experiencing mild symptoms.

At a press conference Wednesday, Dec. 22, state epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy said she believes omicron now accounts for at least half of the COVID-19 cases in Colorado.

While Routt County’s cases are still lower than they were in December 2020, Smith said cases will likely spike over the next several weeks, as visitors fly into the Yampa Valley Regional Airport and locals return from traveling over the holidays.

Other mountain communities around Colorado have seen large case increases throughout the past several weeks, with Eagle and Summit counties both reporting high extremely high caseloads.

Routt County Public Health is also urging everyone to wear a mask in indoor public spaces, limit large gatherings, wash hands frequently and practice physical distancing, which Smith said are the best ways to prevent the spread.

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