Garfield County reports first West Slope case of COVID-19 omicron variant, community spread likely

Garfield County Public Health reported Wednesday that it was notified of a vaccinated county resident who tested positive for the COVID-19 omicron variant, the first discovered so far on the Western Slope of Colorado.

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

“We are still learning about this variant,” she said. “It is more contagious than delta, with similar symptoms to other variants of the virus. Those who have been vaccinated seem to be experiencing less severe symptoms.”

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) is tracking the spread of omicron, which was first detected Dec. 2 on Colorado’s Front Range.

There are now four confirmed cases of the variant in the state, the county’s news release states.

Unlike the first three identified cases, though, the Garfield County case had no recent travel history, the release states. Omicron has also been detected in Boulder wastewater, leading officials to believe that community transmission is occurring.

“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,” she said.

County Public Health, in collaboration with the CDPHE, continues to monitor for additional spread of the variant.

“Experts around the world conclude that vaccines are the safest, most effective way to slow the spread of COVID-19 and its variants, as well as help avoid the worst outcomes (severe illness, hospitalization, and death) among those who do become infected,” the release states.

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