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This release is republished from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (Dec. 2, 2021)

COVID-19 omicron variant confirmed in Colorado

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has confirmed its first case of the omicron variant of COVID-19 in Colorado. The case was identified in an adult female resident of Arapahoe County who had recently traveled to Southern Africa for tourism. She is experiencing minor symptoms and is isolated and recuperating at home. She had been fully vaccinated and was eligible for the booster vaccine but had not received it yet.

The Colorado State Public Health Laboratory conducted genome sequencing on the specimen and confirmed the presence of the omicron variant. The specimen had the signature S gene target failure diagnostic test profile that has been identified in omicron cases. Colorado became the third state to detect the omicron variant and was the first in the nation to identify the Alpha variant last December thanks to the sophisticated team of CDPHE epidemiologists and scientists at the Colorado State Laboratory.

ABOUT THE CASE:
This case was identified following a positive test result through routine case investigation by Tri-County Health Department, CDPHE’s epidemiologists flagged it for follow-up because of recent travel history. CDPHE sent a team to collect an additional specimen for genome sequencing and has been working closely with Tri-County Health Department on case investigation. People who have recently traveled internationally should be tested 3-5 days after their return with a molecular or PCR test, regardless of symptoms or vaccination history.

CDPHE has issued an isolation order for this case and close contacts in Colorado have tested negative. CDPHE is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to investigate this case. CDC is coordinating all travel-associated interstate and international contact tracing efforts and will work with airlines to identify all potentially exposed passengers.

Omicron (B.1.1.529) is a new variant that was first detected in November in South Africa, and may be responsible for an increase in cases in that country. CDC announced that the California and San Francisco Departments of Public Health confirmed the first case of omicron variant in the United States yesterday and a second case was identified in Minnesota earlier today. There is still a lot to learn about the omicron variant, but due to some of the mutations on the spike protein of the virus, it is possible that omicron might be more transmissible, or immune response may not be as effective. The World Health Organization has classified this variant as a variant of concern.

CDPHE has multiple, sophisticated monitoring programs to detect the presence of variants in the state. The CDPHE Laboratory and some private laboratories conduct genetic sequencing of human samples that are positive for SARS-CoV-2 from around the state.

State health officials want to restate that all Coloradans (ages 5+) should get vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine. Anyone 18 or older who has received their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna at least six months ago or who has received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for their initial dose is encouraged to get a booster dose as soon as possible. In addition, all Coloradans (ages 6 months+) should get vaccinated with the flu vaccine to protect the health care system.

It’s particularly critical that Coloradans heed caution and get vaccinated, get a booster dose, wear a mask in indoor public spaces, limit large gatherings, wash their hands frequently, get tested if they have symptoms or were exposed, and practice physical distancing. People who have recently traveled internationally should be tested 3-5 days after their return with a molecular or PCR test, regardless of symptoms or vaccination history. Anyone, regardless of vaccination status, who develops symptoms should get tested immediately and isolate. There are more than 140 free community testing sites across Colorado.

Continue to stay up to date by visiting covid19.colorado.gov. All detected variants of concern in Colorado are listed on the data dashboard and the CDC has a webpage dedicated to COVID-19 variants.