Omicron in Wyoming – First Case Confirmed at UW
Written by Andrew-Rossi on December 20, 2021
Omicron is here, as both the Wyoming Department of Health and the University of Wyoming confirm the first two cases of the newest COVID-19 variant.
On Friday, Dec. 17, the Wyoming Department of Health announced the first detection of the omicron variant in the state. One Albany County resident was confirmed to have a variant, with a second confirmation in a second Albany County resident expected soon after.
Lab sequencing confirmed the Albany County adult with recent domestic travel was infected with the omicron variant of COVID-19. As of Friday, confirmation was pending for the other individual presumed to be infected.
Both cases were initially identified by a University of Wyoming Veterinary Laboratory with W.D.H. involved with confirmation.
“With the quick spread of this variant across the nation, including within some of our neighbor states, we are not surprised with this result and expect there are other cases within Wyoming that haven’t yet been identified,” said Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with W.D.H.
Harrist said there is much still to learn about omicron and its potential impact over time. Still, she is concerned about how easily and quickly the variant appears to be transmitted between people.
That same day, the University of Wyoming confirmed both infected individuals were U.W. students living off-campus.
The infected U.W. student, who had received two doses of a COVID vaccine but not a booster shot, is experiencing mild symptoms. The second individual, who was fully vaccinated and had received a booster shot, is asymptomatic and had a very low viral load.
Last week, the U.W. Board of Trustees voted to extend the university’s campus mask policy into the spring semester. The board cited the spread of the Omicron variant as a factor that could lead to the mask policy being extended further, possibly to the end of the current school year.
While the Omicron variant is highly transmissible, most people’s infection symptoms may be less severe than other forms of COVID-19. And, while Omicron appears to be capable of evading protection provided by two- or one-dose COVID vaccines, COVID booster shots are likely effective in protecting against severe illness – up to 80% effective.
U.W.’s message is clear to its campus and the entire state: stay calm and get vaccinated.
“The arrival of the Omicron variant at U.W. is no reason to panic, but it does highlight the importance of vaccines and boosters for our community members,” U.W. President Ed Seidel says. “We continue to encourage receiving vaccinations and booster shots highly.”
All COVID-19 vaccine doses, including boosters, continue to be offered at no cost throughout Wyoming and the entire country.
In Park County, hospitalizations are on the rise. According to Park County Public Health Officer Dr. Aaron Billin, there are currently 43 active cases and 13 hospitalizations – 12 of those in Cody – in Park County.