Colorado’s fourth omicron case detected in Garfield County, first with no recent travel history

Health officials continue urging Coloradans to get their booster shots
Posted at 5:17 PM, Dec 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-16 09:24:54-05

GARFIELD COUNTY, Colo. – The omicron variant has now been detected on Colorado’s Western Slope, local public health officials said Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases of the new mutation in the state to four.

“We anticipated that we would see omicron cases in our county,” said Sara Brainard, Garfield County Public Health nurse manager.

Brainard said Garfield County Public Health was notified Wednesday that a vaccinated individual had tested positive for the variant. Unlike the first three cases reported so far, however, Garfield County’s case had no recent travel history, suggesting there is community spread happening in the area.

The omicron variant, identified in South Africa in mid-November, was first detected in Colorado on Dec. 2 in an Arapahoe County woman who had recently traveled to southern Africa. Since then, cases have also been confirmed in Boulder and Jefferson counties.

All known cases, except for the Boulder case, were confirmed to have occurred among fully vaccinated people. Health officials in Boulder did not release the person’s vaccination status when they announced the case last week.

Scientists are still learning about omicron, though preliminary data from South Africa, the U.K. and Hong Kong suggests the mutation is much more transmissible than previous variants and more adept at infecting people who’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or who’ve recovered from prior infection.

Health experts have not yet been able to ascertain whether omicron will lead to more severe illness, hospitalization, or death.

During a White House COVID-19 Response Team update Wednesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci said data from South Africa showed that even though protection from Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine drops to 33% against infection, the two-dose regimen is still 70% effective at preventing hospitalization in omicron patients. A booster increases protection against symptomatic infection to 75%.

To date, 36 states across the country have detected omicron, and the variant makes up about 3% of all COVID-19 cases in the U.S., according to CDC Director Rochelle Walesnksy.

“Our primary concern is that a more contagious virus will make more people ill and strain our hospital systems more quickly,” Brainard said. “Omicron, combined with holiday gatherings, means that this is the time to get boosted. And, if you have not yet, protect yourself and your children by getting vaccinated.”

The latest data from the CDC shows 61% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and 27% have received a booster shot.

In Colorado, 69.05% of the population is fully vaccinated and 43.5% have received a booster shot, according to statewide data.