SALT LAKE CITY — On Friday the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) confirmed the first case of COVID-19 caused by the new Omicron variant.
The case was discovered at the Utah Public Health Laboratory (UHPL) through ongoing genetic sequencing of positive COVID-19 samples.
The UPHL can sequence up to 3,100 samples each week. The lab has sequenced 11.6% of all positive COVID-19 PCR samples since the beginning of the pandemic.
The individual who tested positive for Omicron is an older adult that lives in southwestern Utah. The fully-vaccinated person recently returned home after a trip to South Africa. They have received monoclonal antibody treatment, and are recovering at home after experiencing mild symptoms.
“The person who tested positive and their close contacts have been very cooperative and are following the isolation, quarantine, and testing guidance of public health authorities,” UDOH said.
“Given the high number of Utahns traveling in and out of the state, it is not surprising the Omicron variant has been found in Utah,” said Dr. Leisha Nolen, an epidemiologist at the UDOH. “The discovery of this case does not change the way Utah residents should protect themselves, but reinforces that we all need to take this virus seriously. Please take action to protect yourself. Get vaccinated and get a booster dose when you qualify, wear a mask in crowded, indoor settings, get tested early if you have symptoms, and stay home if you are sick or test positive.”
According to UDOH, there are still many unknowns with regard to the Omicron variant, including whether it spreads more easily, causes more severe disease, and how well the current vaccines work against it.
As a precautionary measure, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends international travelers who are unvaccinated should stay home and away from others for 7 days after their trip and all travelers should get tested 3-5 after they return to Utah.
“Vaccination and booster shots still offer the best protection against COVID-19. The CDC and the UDOH strongly recommend adults 18 and older get booster doses when they are eligible (6 months after receiving their Pfizer or Moderna shots, or 2 months after receiving their Johnson & Johnson shot). Additionally, getting tested immediately upon symptom onset can allow for treatment with monoclonal antibodies, and potentially with antiviral pills that are awaiting FDA authorization,” UDOH said.
UDOH announced 1,873 new Covid cases in the state on Friday. School-age children accounted for 362 of the new positive cases.