Colorado has identified its first known case of a new omicronic variant of COVID-19 in a resident of Arapaho County, but there is no evidence that the version of the virus is widespread at this time – and it is still unknown how much of a risk the new strain poses. …
The Colorado Department of Health and Environment said Thursday that an adult woman has mild symptoms and is recovering at home. She recently traveled to many countries in southern Africa, where this variant was first discovered.
Her COVID-19 test was marked for genetic sequencing by the Tri-Ka County Health Department due to her recent travel. State epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihi said the woman followed all public health guidelines, including wearing a mask while traveling and getting tested as soon as she developed symptoms.
The woman was vaccinated against COVID-19, and enough time had passed for her to be scheduled for revaccination, but she did not receive it. The people who were in close contact with her were ordered to be isolated, but none of them have tested positive so far, according to state health officials.
Gov. Jared Polis said he was “not very worried” about finding the first case of omicron, but urged people to get vaccinated or boosted before it becomes widespread. Much remains unknown about the new variant, but indirect evidence suggests it may be more infectious than the delta variant, which currently dominates Colorado and much of the world.
“If we have a few weeks … let’s use them to protect ourselves,” he said.
Overall, the COVID-19 situation in Colorado appears to be gradually improving. Confirmed hospital admissions dropped to 1,400 on Thursday afternoon. However, capacity remained limited, with only 67 intensive care beds and 399 general beds available across the state.
Other indicators also showed some improvement. The average number of cases has continued to decline daily, although the decline has not been as sharp over the past few days as it was last week. The number of active outbreaks also declined for the first time since mid-July, albeit with a decrease of only three.
The positivity indicator has raised the worrying signal that this wave may not be over yet. Test positive rates have recovered somewhat over the past few days, after falling slowly through most of November. It is too early to tell whether the Thanksgiving gatherings have led to an increase in the spread of the virus, and it is unclear what effect the omicron might have if it became widespread.
“Of course, we are less concerned about our hospital’s capacity overshoot than two weeks ago, but this virus continues to throw the ball after the dummy,” said Polis.
The World Health Organization has classified the omicron as an option of concern, although there is still a lot to be learned about how great the threat it poses.
Mutations in the virus’ spike protein – the part that allows it to enter human cells – suggests that it may be more infectious than previous variants and more difficult for the immune system to recognize, but it will take at least two weeks to confirm if omicron is behaves. unlike previous options.
California and Minnesota identified omicron cases earlier than Colorado, and New York announced five cases later Thursday afternoon. The Minnesota resident did not leave the country, but went to a convention in New York, suggesting that at least some spread has already occurred in the United States.
Experts expressed concern over whether the United States has a clear idea of how far the omicron could have spread, because there are significantly more tests underway in some parts of the country than others. Colorado is doing more sequencing than most states.
As of Thursday afternoon, the omicron had been detected in 36 countries, with cases unrelated to travel to Canada and six Western European countries, as well as South Africa and Botswana. New information from the Netherlands shows that the option was already in Europe a week before it was confirmed in South Africa and caused alarm.
The state health department advises anyone who has traveled overseas to get tested for the virus’ genetic material three to five days after returning. Although rapid tests can tell you if you have the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the state cannot use them to determine which variant is causing your illness, Herliha said.
Recently, the number of COVID-19 cases has begun to increase in South Africa’s Gauteng province, which includes the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria, Herlihi said. The spike in the number of cases, which coincides with the discovery of the omicron there, is indirect evidence that the variant may spread more easily, she said.
Herliha said a doctor from South Africa said her patients who had omicron usually had mild symptoms, but it’s unclear if this reflects the difference in the virus. Many of the patients were in their 20s, she said, and most people in this age group have mild to moderate symptoms.
It is also unclear if it is more difficult for the immune system to detect the omicron, which would increase the chances that it will gain a foothold in people who have been vaccinated or recovered from a previous version of the virus.
For now, the World Health Organization expects vaccinated people to continue to be protected from the severe form of COVID-19, Herlihi said.
The state is sequencing about 15% of positive COVID-19 tests, and is also sampling wastewater to see what options are in the community and how prevalent they are, Herlihi said.
Delta still accounts for nearly all cases reported in Colorado, but for now, the precautions are the same for all options: get vaccinated; get a booster if you are eligible; wearing a mask in public areas; practice social distancing; and stay at home unless you need to get tested or get medical help if you feel unwell.
“The strategies are the same,” she said.