‘Expect rapid spread’: Pueblo leaders predict major impact on schools and businesses following Omicron discovery

Pueblo County Sheriff's Office Drone Shot

PUEBLO, Colo. — Public Health officials have released a Public Health Advisory after the detection of the omicron COVID-19 variant in the City of Pueblo’s wastewater.

According to the Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment, wastewater is tested weekly in the City of Pueblo and Pueblo West as part of a state-wide COVID-19 testing effort with labs and wastewater utilities. The virus can appear in wastewater before someone shows symptoms. Testing wastewater can give health officials early warning about increases or decreases in COVID-19 cases in a community.

“Detection of omicron variant in Pueblo’s wastewater confirms the variant is in Pueblo and it is expected we will see the cases quickly increase,” said Randy Evetts, public health director at the Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment. “You can protect yourself from omicron variant with the same protection measures from all of COVID-19’s variants: vaccinating and getting boosters, wearing a mask, social distancing, getting tested for COVID-19 and staying home when sick.

According to local health leaders, vaccination is the best method to reduce risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death. Greatest protection with third mRNA dose (Moderna or Pfizer). 

Omicron (B.1.1.529) is a new variant that was first detected in November in South Africa and detected in Colorado early December. Colorado has found key signatures of omicron in all 21 of the wastewater systems taking part in detection, including Pueblo. Omicron is in multiple counties across Colorado and appears to be spreading quickly. Although it is spreading quickly, there is mixed data on severity, yet can still lead to hospitalization, especially in individuals not vaccinated.

There is evidence omicron variant will spread faster and cause higher levels of reinfection and vaccine-breakthrough compared to the delta variant. Employers and schools should expect rapid spread of the virus and subsequent high levels of absenteeism due to illness among staff and students in the first quarter of 2022.

Randy Evetts, public health director at the Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment

Health officials went on to urge residents to protect themselves this holiday season, especially when traveling, get vaccinated, get a booster dose, wear a mask indoor public spaces, limit large gatherings, wash your hands frequently, get tested if you have symptoms or were exposed, and practice physical distancing.

People who have recently traveled should be tested 3-5 days after return with a molecular or PCR test, regardless of symptoms or vaccination history. Anyone, regardless of vaccination status, who develops symptoms should get tested immediately and isolate. Testing is free and available at two community test sites in Pueblo, visit this link for holiday hours:

  • Colorado State Fairgrounds, corner of Mesa and Arroyo Avenues, open seven days a week, 8AM-5PM
  • Pueblo Mall, open Monday through Saturday, 8AM-5PM

If is encouraged to get a flu shot as flu season is underway. Getting a flu shot helps to protect you and your family from flu and reduces the chances that you will require hospital care if you do contract influenza.

Continue to stay up to date by visiting pueblohealth.org. Additional information about monitoring COVID-19 in wastewater is available at https://covid19.colorado.gov/covid-19-monitoring-in-wastewater.

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