CASPER — The omicron variant has become the most common source for new COVID-19 infections in Wyoming, the state Department of Health said Thursday.
Until recently, the delta variant had been the dominant strain in Wyoming. But omicron, which is considerably more contagious, is quickly overtaking it, both here and across the rest of the nation.
“We are currently seeing big jumps in Wyoming’s case counts again, likely due to the Omicron variant,” said Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state health offi cer and state epidemiologist. “This is again not like the COVID-19 we have become familiar with because it spreads much more easily between people. Unfortunately, when a virus transmits between people easily more people become infected.”
Harrist cited recent variant sequencing results and estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the determination that the omicron variant was now the most common strain for new infections in Wyoming.
Omicron was first detected in Wyoming in mid-December. The first case involved a University of Wyoming student in Laramie who’d traveled domestically.
As of Thursday, the state’s COVID-19 dashboard showed 25 detected cases of omicron in Wyoming. Of those, 15 were found in Albany County residents, nine in neighboring Laramie County and one in Carbon County. All are in the southeastern corner of the state.
The actual number of omicron infections is likely much higher considering many people don’t get tested or are asymptomatic.
Cases have been on the rise in Wyoming of late after falling this autumn. On Dec. 18, the state’s seven-day average for lab-confirmed cases was 64.6. As of Wednesday, that number had jumped to 292.6.
A similar spike is being experienced nationally. At the end of November, the country’s seven-day average for new cases was hovering around 80,000. On Jan. 5, it hit roughly 584,000, according to figures kept by the New York Times.
While omicron is showing to be more contagious, early studies suggest its symptoms may be less severe than the previously dominant delta variant.
The health department recommended vaccinations and noted that the CDC is now advising Pfizer boosters for anyone 12 and older. The Pfizer vaccine is the only one authorized for kids aged 12-17, according to the health department.
Wyoming remains one of the nation’s most vaccine-hesitant states. Roughly 48 percent of the state’s population is fully vaccinated, the country’s second-lowest rate behind Idaho.