Omicron variant detected in southwest Utah

·2 min read
COVID-19 omicron variant reaches U.S., vaccine efficacy remains unclear.
COVID-19 omicron variant reaches U.S., vaccine efficacy remains unclear.

Utah officially has its first case of the Omicron Coronavirus variant after a southwest Utah resident tested positive for the variant, according to health officials.

On Friday afternoon, the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) announced the first case of the variant, which was first detected in South Africa and is labeled as a "variant of concern," according to the World Health Organization (WHO). This means this variant could be more transmissible or more severe and that the effectiveness of anti-bodies and vaccines could be reduced, according to the WHO.

The health department said the person with the Omicron variant lives in the Southwest Utah Health district. This district contains five counties including Beaver, Garfield, Iron, Kane and Washington county, though the announcement didn't specify which county.

All the counties in the southwest district have a designation of "very high" or "high" 14-day COVID-19 incidence report, according to UDOH's website. Kane county is only one with a "high" incidence designation.

The positive test came from a "older adult" who is fully vaccinated, experiencing mild symptoms, received monoclonal antibody treatment and recently traveled to South Africa, according to UDOH. The person and their close contacts are quarantining and are following the isolation, quarantine, and testing policies currently in place.

This variant coming to Utah isn't shocking, says Dr. Leisha Nolen, a state epidemiologist for UDOH.

"Given the high number of Utahns traveling in and out of the state, it is not surprising the Omicron variant has been found in Utah,” Nolen said . “The discovery of this case does not change the way Utah residents should protect themselves, but reinforces that we all need to take this virus seriously."

To take it seriously, Nolen suggests getting fully vaccinated or a booster shot if qualified, wearing a mask in crowded indoor spaces, getting tested for the virus and go home if you have symptoms or test positive.

While the Omicron variant has caused concern across the globe UDOH says there is still much to be learned about the virus.

"There are still many unknowns with regard to the Omicron variant, including whether it spreads more easily, causes more severe disease, and how well the current vaccines work against it," read the UDOH announcement.

The Omicron variant first appeared in the United States on Dec. 1 in California and was first flagged as a variant in South Africa in November.

Earlier on Friday UDOH reported 1,873 new coronavirus cases and 19 new deaths.

Sean Hemmersmeier covers local government, growth and development in Southwestern Utah. Follow on Twitter @seanhemmers34. Our work depends on subscribers so if you want more coverage on these issues you can subscribe here: thespectrum.com/subscribe.

This article originally appeared on St. George Spectrum & Daily News: Omicron variant detected in southwest Utah

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