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(December 21, 2021) – The omicron variant is the most common in the United States as it currently accounts for 73 percent of all sequenced COVID-19 cases, surging from around only 3 percent last week.
The omicron strain has more than 50 mutations likely resulting in the very quick spread of the highly transmissible variant. This increase in omicron prevalence was expected after analyzing patterns observed worldwide. The omicron variant has not yet been detected in San Miguel County but has been recognized in Eagle, Summit and Pitkin counties as the cause of recent sharp increases in new COVID cases. Given omicron’s rapid growth rate, most notably in regional mountain towns, it’s important to increase booster rates as soon as possible to provide protection in January. “There is a level of risk that we all have to consider when participating in events and gatherings with people outside of our regular circles,” said Public Health Director Grace Franklin. “Getting a booster dose is the best way to protect against severe outcomes from omicron. However, as we gather with friends and family, we need to consider who’s going to the party. Are they vulnerable? How can I be most respectful of their health?”San Miguel County is currently reporting 37 active local cases with two current unvaccinated residents hospitalized with complications from COVID both 40-years-old or younger, each reported to not be vaccinated. Public Health was also notified of two COVID-related deaths of county residents. One male in his 40s and one female in her 70s who also faced other health complications which may have been exacerbated by the COVID infection. Yesterday’s community testing site administered over 200 tests at the Lawson Hill clinic and results are expected shortly. This indicates a significant increase in testing demand and potentially higher disease burden amongst residents. While there is an increased concern for high COVID case numbers, the disease burden is containable through preventative measures and best practices such as vaccination, boosters, and mask use. “Cases are rising, and it is by no means unexpected,” said Contact Tracing Supervisor Hannah Max. “Not only is this surge aligned with what we saw last year, but also expected as our sense of normalcy from the summer months translates into indoor public spaces. We can contain this and certainly don’t want this to continue increasing transmission as the healthcare system is already strained. We recommend you test before events, get boosted, stay home when sick, and even reconsider attending large gatherings.”Wastewater testing has been used over the last year and a half to detect variants present in the county and predict increases in case rates before they occur. This week’s wastewater variant sample will be pulled today with results arriving over the holiday weekend or shortly after, providing a larger data point to inform disease spread in the east end of the county. Public Health will be closed on Thursday, December 23 and Friday, December 24 in observance of the Christmas holiday. This holiday closure includes free COVID testing through Public Health. Public Health’s contact tracing services will be closed on Saturday, December 25 and Sunday, December 26 in observance of the holiday weekend. For questions regarding positive results, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. For questions regarding quarantine and isolation guidance while offices are closed, please refer to the county’s COVID flowchart. “The most important thing to remember is to isolate immediately if you receive a positive test result or experience symptoms of COVID-19,” said Max. “By taking this step, you are protecting your loved ones throughout the holiday season and beyond."