DENVER (KDVR) — New variants of the coronavirus are scary, but public health data doesn’t suggest a largescale panic.
Fears of the newly-discovered omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus have caused a stock market tumble, bans on foreign travel and an emergency disaster declaration in New York – though it hasn’t been discovered in Colorado. According to Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment data, though, previous variants weren’t associated with big upward swings in COVID numbers.
The World Health Organization has identified 10 variants, each with one or more sub-mutations. CDPHE has found nine variants of concern in Colorado. Few really took off in the Centennial State. Of the nine variants, only the B.1.1.7, B.1.429 and AY.1 variants ever made up more than 20% of the variants identified in any given week.
Since the B.1.1.7 variant was identified in Dec. 2020, most of the variants found in Colorado have been the AY.1, or delta, variant.
Public health data does not confirm or disconfirm variants’ ability to make people sicker or die in higher numbers, at least in real-time.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the B.1.1.7 variant was never associated with worse clinical outcomes but rather increased transmission. Other studies claimed it was deadlier. Officials and scientists had the same arguments about the delta variant and are now having them about the omicron variant.
As the epidemiology is hazy about variants leading to more deaths or serious illness, so is the public data. Other factors play major roles, but whether it’s cases, deaths or hospitalizations, there’s little evidence that the heavy presence of variants alone directly leads to upticks in numbers even though they are more transmissible.
The B.1.1.7, B.1.429 and delta variants were found in Colorado on Dec. 27, 2020, Jan. 10, 2021 and April 17, 2021, respectively.
Cases went down after the B.1.429 and delta strains were found. They rose after the B.1.1.7 variant was found, but this may be simply due to a post-Christmas glut of cases being reported.
Both hospitalizations and deaths went down after the B.1.1.7 and B.1.429 variants were found. After the delta variant was identified, hospitalizations went up. They did, however, plummet a few weeks afterward even as the delta strain itself became more prevalent and public health restrictions were loosened.