Endemic vs. Pandemic
Omicron variant detected in Carbon County
January 12, 2022
Omicron has officially been detected in Carbon County.
The Board of Carbon County Commissioners (BOCCC) were updated on the detection of the most recent, and highly contagious, variant of the Covid-19 virus during their January 4 meeting. The update came from Amanda Brown, nurse manager for Carbon County Public Health, with additional information from Duane Abels, the Carbon County Health Officer.
“Omicron is now the dominant variant in the US. It has been identified in Wyoming and, as of this morning, in Carbon County. The problem with variants; the testing sometimes doesn’t always paint a picture of what’s actually circulating in our communities because only certain platforms do variant testing,” said Brown. “So a lot of people, they get a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ but they don’t actually know what variant they have but we do know for sure it is the dominant (variant) now. With it being much more transmissible than Delta, we are seeing an increase in our caseloads, again. We’re seeing about five to 10 cases per day (over) the last week or so and we do expect it to continue to rise.”
Though Omicron has, so far, proven itself to be far more contagious than the Delta variant of the coronavirus there was some good news shared by Brown. Though it has only been a few months since the Omicron variant was first detected, hospitalization rates are mch lower than compared to the Delta variant.
“This may be more contagious, but it’s less deadly,” Brown said. “So, we’re taking the positives as we can. However, with the increased cases, we may still see a stress on our healthcare system locally and regionally.”
According to Brown, to try and prevent another wave of stress on local and regional healthcare systems, Carbon County Public Health was still recommending residents get vaccinated or booster shots, wear a mask in public places, and get tested before gatherings or after any known exposures. The nurse manager added public health recommended testing five days after a known exposure or if someone was experiencing symptoms consistent with the coronavirus.
Additionally, Brown touched on the recent changes in quarantine procedures from the Centers for Disease Control and Wyoming Public Health. Previously, those who had tested positive for Covid-19 were required to be isolated for 10 days but the time has been reduced to five days.
“It’s been a little confusing because of the shift,” Brown said. “We are seeing the majority of the cases are showing higher contagion early on. So that’s why the change from the 10 days to the five days.”
With Omicron now present in the county and a continued push from public health in recommending those who are vaccinated receive their boosters, one question asked by Commissioners John Espy centered on the length of the effectiveness of the boosters. Current recommendations state anyone who is six months out from receiving their second shot of either the Moderna or Pfizer/BioNTech (Pfizer) vaccine get a booster.
“It’s a little too early to know how long it’s effective for. If we continue on this same trajectory, I’d say it’s probably going to be another six months but I really don’t know for sure. Anyone after six months, we did see a lot of really good data showing that immunity drop at that six months,” said Brown. “So, it is definitely important to get that booster at six months just to continue that. I don’t know how long. I’m hoping we don’t have to keep doing this forever.”
According to Abels, an obstacle in being able to determine how long a booster was effective was due to the inability to measure the T and B cells.
“The reason we don’t know about how long the booster really is effective is because we can measure antibodies and so we know the antibodies are dropping but the heavy worker for our immune system is the killer T and B cells, the plasma cells,” said Abels. “We can’t really measure them very well, so we just have to look at the data as to how many cases we’re getting, how many breakthrough cases we get, things like that.”
Abels added onto Brown’s previous statement regarding Omicron and hospitalizations, stating the reason there were fewer hospitalizations and deaths was because this current variant did not damage the lungs like the Delta variant.
“It appears, with this variant, this will be like an endemic illness,” Abels said. “Not a pandemic, an endemic illness like influenza and then we may end up with yearly shots for the rest of our life.”
As of January 10, Carbon County had 43 active laboratory confirmed cases, 81 laboratory confirmed cases in the past two weeks and a total of 3,005 laboratory confirmed cases. There have been 47 deaths in Carbon County due to Covid-19 since the pandemic began. As of January 3, approximately 41.21 percent of Carbon County residents were fully vaccinated.
The next meeting of the Board of Carbon County Commissioners will be at 9 a.m. on January 18 at the Carbon Building - Courthouse Annex in Rawlins.