More omicron cases detected

CASPER — The number of documented cases of omicron variant in Wyoming rose to four on Tuesday, according to the latest figures from the Wyoming Department of Health. 

All four of the cases involve University of Wyoming students who live off-campus, university spokesman Chad Baldwin said in an email. Three of those students are experiencing mild symptoms. A fourth is asymptomatic. 

Last week, lab testing confirmed that a University of Wyoming student who’d recently traveled domestically was the state’s first documented omicron case. 

Two of the other cases involved people who’d traveled with the first student, Baldwin said. 

So far, the variant, which the CDC says is now responsible for nearly three-quarters of the new COVID cases in the U.S., has only been detected in Albany County, health department spokeswoman Kim Deti said in an email. But it’s possible there are other cases in the state that have not yet been identifi ed, she added. 

“We expect omicron is spreading within the state,” she said. 

The delta variant, which was responsible for the surge in cases, hospitalizations and deaths this summer and fall, remains the dominant strain in Wyoming, Deti said. 

The World Health Organization designated omicron as a “variant of concern” on Nov. 26. The first U.S. case was identified five days later. 

The variant is causing concern because it appears to spread more easily than earlier strains of the virus, including delta. 

“A variant that spreads more easily could certainly mean more illnesses and that’s a concern,” Deti said. “There is still much to learn about omicron.” 

It’s unknown yet whether the variant causes more severe illness, according to the CDC. There are some early studies that suggest its symptoms may be less severe than other variants. 

Vaccines are expected to offer protection against the omicron variant, though some studies have suggested vaccines are less effective against it than strains such as delta. Boosters have been shown to improve the vaccine’s effectiveness against omicron. 

“For the omicron variant we have the same recommendations we have had for COVID-19 for quite some time: Get vaccinated if you aren’t already,” Deti said. “Get a booster shot if you haven’t already and the timing is right for you. Stay home and away from other people if you are ill. Get tested if you are ill. Wear masks in indoor public settings.” 

Overall, the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Wyoming have been falling. The number of hospitalizations in the state, for example, dropped to 82 on Monday, the lowest number since this summer.