Omicron takes off in Colorado as communities brace for impact

Coronavirus

DENVER (KDVR) — The highly transmissible omicron variant is spreading rapidly across Colorado, forcing public health officials and hospital workers to plan for what’s to come in the new year.

“We’ve been watching our numbers very closely and we’re still sort of in that decline or plateau phase. That’s good, although we are bracing for the fact it’s probably about to go up again,” said Dr. Michelle Barron, senior medical director of infection prevention at UCHealth.

Barron said there are still questions about how likely vaccinated people are to transmit this strain of the virus, but omicron is spreading faster than anything seen before.

“If you compare this to the original strain, we’re probably 4-8 times more likely to transmit this or get infected,” Barron said.

Cases in mountain resort communities are rising drastically. Pitkin County health officials say case numbers have quadrupled in less than a week, and Eagle County’s 7-day positivity rate was near 24% as of Thursday.

Pitkin County’s mask order has been in place since the fall. Eagle County reinstated its mandate this week.

“If we were to try to shut down like we did in March 2020, I think we’d have pitchforks and torches at our doorstep in a heartbeat and I don’t know if it would work,” said Matt Scherr, Eagle County commissioner.

Officials in both Pitkin and Eagle counties say they’re actively trying to avoid any type of shutdown.

“I know the next thing we might look at is indoor capacity for things that are happening,” said Tracy Trulove, a Pitkin County COVID-19 response spokesperson. “It’s definitely something that will be discussed, but there are several triggers that have to occur for that to happen and we’re not in that place right now.”

Both Eagle and Pitkin Counties are focused on hospital capacity and keeping staff from getting sick. That will play a major role in shaping future public health orders.

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