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Omicron is in Utah: here's what you can do to stay safe

A gloved hand holds a tube labeled "Omicron Variant."
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Preliminary evidence suggests there is an increased risk of reinfection with the COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Omicron cases are showing up across the country. With the holiday season approaching, concern is rising on the spread and severity of this new COVID-19 variant.

Two cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant have been detected in Utah. Although little is known about this new variant, many health officials in the state are concerned about its spread.

Public Information Officer of Bear River Health Department, Estee Hunt, shares why this time of year is of particular concern.

“As colder temperatures here in Utah set in, we tend to spend more time indoors. And during the holidays, people seem to gather with family and friends. And both of these types of situations create an environment where disease can easily spread. We always begin to see the increase this time of year.”

According to the Utah Health Department, the two Utah cases that tested positive for the variant were of individuals who received the first two COVID vaccinations.

Health officials say the efficacy of vaccines may be dependent on when a person was last vaccinated.

Dr. Tamara Sheffield, the Medical Director for Preventive Medicine at Intermountain Healthcare explains:

“Much of your antibody levels are dependent on how recently you were vaccinated. So if you just jumped on the bandwagon, and you've had it, you know, at least those two doses, and you're within those early weeks of those two doses, you're actually quite well protected, because you have a lot of antibodies circulating.”

Dr. Sheffield says that while vaccinations are an essential way to prevent serious illness, death, and virus spread, she recommends another way to fight COVID-19.

“The other thing that we need to really understand is masking. You could be asymptomatically carrying that virus, you could be harboring it for a while and you could be passing it to people. And the way to be kind and not pass it to others is to mask.”

For additional information about vaccines and COVID-19 in Utah, visit here.

Colleen Meidt is a Science Reporter at UPR as well as a PhD student at Utah State University. She studies native bees in the Mojave Desert and is particularly interested studying the conservation status of the Mohave Poppy Bee. In her free time, Colleen enjoys photography and rock climbing in the canyons.