Omicron variant likely causing large surge in Summit County COVID-19 cases
COVID-19 cases are surging in Summit County, and Summit County Public Health Department officials think the omicron variant is the culprit. The variant accounts for 73% of all new cases nationally in the past week, according to news reports.
Though the county’s incidence rate was dropping last week, the public health department was notified of four positive COVID-19 cases Friday, Dec. 17. That increased to a total of 59 positive cases between Friday afternoon through Monday evening, Dec. 20. On Tuesday, Dec. 21, the department received 112 cases overnight — double the weekend cases.
That spike in cases is despite Summit County’s high vaccination rate. Currently, 98.3% of Summit County residents have at least one dose of the vaccine, and 82.2% are fully vaccinated, according to the county’s website.
Most cases of omicron are reportedly mild yet very contagious, with the variant appearing to spread more easily and quickly than the original coronavirus strain, according to the county. Even with reduced severity, the county said omicron’s increased transmissibility could lead to more illness and an increase in hospitalizations — the main concern now that vaccines are widely available.
During a state media briefing Wednesday, Dec. 22, COVID-19 incident commander Scott Bookman said there are 1,026 people hospitalized with COVID-19 across the state. He said the state is seeing a pretty significant decline in hospitalizations and that capacity is increasing as more people get discharged.
“We’re really grateful that we’re seeing this as we prepare for what may be coming with omicron,” Bookman said. “… While we do see a bit of breathing room there … there is a lot of concern nationally and internationally that just the sheer transmissibility of this variant may result in an increase of hospitalizations again.”
In neighboring Eagle County, 185 new COVID-19 cases were reported Monday, Dec. 20, and there were 111 additional cases added Tuesday, Dec. 21. Eagle County reinstated its indoor mask mandate Wednesday.
As of Wednesday morning, the Vail Daily reported that the incident rate in Eagle County is 1,000 case per 100,000 people. That is the highest it has been since the beginning of the pandemic and is currently the highest in the state.
In Colorado, roughly half of new COVID-19 cases could potentially be the omicron variant, according to the briefing.
Summit County officials continue to recommend people wear masks in public spaces, avoid large gatherings and get a booster dose. The public health department said there is high confidence that omicron can evade vaccine- and infection-acquired immunity. Early evidence suggests boosters reduce that risk, and county officials said everyone who is eligible should get a booster dose.
“That booster dose of the vaccine is really what’s going to offer the greatest level of protection, both against infection and against severe disease,” state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said at Wednesday’s press conference. “So now, more than ever, booster doses or third doses of vaccine are incredibly important.”
Those ages 18 and older who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are recommended to receive a booster shot two months after their initial shot. Meanwhile, those 18 and older who received a Moderna or Pfizer vaccine are recommended to wait six months after their second dose for the booster.
According to the county’s site, 25.5% of Summit County residents have received a booster dose.
Individuals who experience cold- or flu-like symptoms should stay home and get tested. Along with cases, the local demand for testing has increased. From Dec. 5-12, three state-run community testing sites in Summit County collected 1,688 tests, and those same sites collected 2,777 tests from Dec. 13-20 — a 65% increase.
People who test positive for COVID-19 should not wait for a call from the local contact-tracing team to begin isolating, and they should inform their close contacts. Those close contacts of a positive case who are vaccinated do not need to quarantine, but they should monitor themselves for symptoms.
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