First Case of Omicron variant confirmed in La Plata County


Public is strongly urged to receive vaccine booster dose as soon as eligible and wear well-fitting, high-quality mask in public indoor spaces


Data provided to San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) yesterday confirmed the first case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in SJBPH’s jurisdiction. The result verifies what SJBPH has suspected, that Omicron is present locally and likely transmitting through community spread.

SJBPH’s first confirmed Omicron case occurred in an adult individual residing in La Plata County. The positive test sample was collected on December 17th at a community testing site and was then processed at a lab for sequencing analysis. Results from the labs typically take approximately one to two weeks to be returned to SJBPH. Sequencing test results takes additional time because more testing is needed to determine the variant of a sample.

The State of Colorado has a robust system in place for analyzing positive samples for variant analysis. SJBPH receives data daily, albeit lagging, which will provide clarity in the coming days and weeks about the extent of Omicron’s spread in the community. SJBPH will continue to monitor the situation closely and provide updates as they become available.

Although the extent to which Omicron is circulating in the community has not yet been identified, SJBPH believes it is significant based on a recent spike in local COVID-19 cases. 147 positive cases were collected across SJBPH’s jurisdiction on December 28th (110 in La Plata County, 16 in Archuleta County, and 21 from out of the jurisdiction). The public is strongly urged to take precautions now to limit what SJBPH anticipates will be a surge in cases caused by the highly transmissible Omicron variant. Precautions are consistent with earlier guidance provided to keep families safe— becoming fully vaccinated, receiving a booster dose, masking in businesses and public indoor spaces, testing if symptomatic or exposed, and avoiding crowded indoor gatherings when possible.

While SJBPH expects some breakthrough cases of Omicron among fully vaccinated or boosted individuals, evidence supports the vaccine and boosters as the most effective measure to prevent severe illness and hospitalizations. Consistently from week to week, between 80% and 100% of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Southwest Colorado are among the unvaccinated population. The rate of fatalities due to COVID-19 in recent weeks have been comparable to the highest levels observed in our region at any time during the pandemic. While early studies indicate Omicron may be slightly less severe than the Delta variant, widespread transmission has the potential to further strain health care with more hospitalizations among unvaccinated and vulnerable populations. Hospitals in Southwest Colorado and across the state remain at or near capacity contributing to shortages in essential health care staff.

“We understand that COVID-19 is again disrupting the holiday season. Our community has endured a lot over the past two years and been tremendously resilient during this awful global pandemic. If you are eligible and have been putting off your booster, please get that done right away. If you have gotten lax about wearing a mask at the grocery store, please get out your highest quality masks and put those back on. Please do not leave yourself unprotected and unvaccinated. Hospitals around Colorado are full or near capacity, and patients can be transferred hours away to receive care. By taking precautions, you can stay healthy and enjoy the winter season and reduce your risk for the worst outcomes caused by the Omicron variant,” said Liane Jollon, Executive Director of SJBPH.

The lifesaving COVID-19 vaccine is available to residents ages five and up. Residents ages 16 and up should receive a booster dose either six months past finishing an initial two-dose series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or two months past receiving the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine. Receiving a booster is shown to drastically increase protection from severe illness, and clinics with ample supply of all three vaccine types are widely available in both La Plata and Archuleta counties. All SJBPH and Jogan Health clinics can offer first, second, and booster doses for those who are eligible. The full schedule of vaccine clinics and providers is available online with convenient dates and times across both counties.

For COVID-19 data, testing locations, and more information about vaccines or monoclonal antibody treatments please visit the SJBPH website.

San Juan Basin Public Health is a local public health agency, governed by a seven-member local Board of Health, serving all residents of La Plata and Archuleta counties. For over 70 years, San Juan Basin Public Health has improved the health and environment of the Southwest Colorado community.

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