BOISE, Idaho — The omicron COVID-19 variant has been detected in Ada County, Central District Health announced Friday.
The variant was confirmed in a clinical lab sample from an Ada County resident who recently reported out-of-state travel. According to Central District health, the person identified is a male and his out-of-state travel destination was Hawaii.
CDH cannot confirm where this person may have been exposed since he did spend part of the 14 day incubation period, before showing symptoms, in Idaho and other places.
The resident is over the age of 50 and experienced very mild symptoms, likely due to being fully vaccinated with a booster shot against COVID-19, according to CDH. The vaccination series was Moderna.
CDH has confirmed the state's first COVID-19 case with the #Omicron variant. The fully vaccinated person is over the age of 50 and had recently traveled out of state. All symptoms were reportedly mild. More info on vaccines & boosters at https://t.co/OIJjZAxgmF. pic.twitter.com/OODdkKxlAI— Central District Health (@CDHidaho) December 10, 2021
“It’s important for people to realize that this new and highly transmissible variant has now been detected in Idaho, and many areas across the US. Many Idahoans regularly travel this time of year, and we need to remember to continue to take precautions, including receiving your vaccine or vaccine booster if you have not done so already,” said Lindsay Haskell, Communicable Disease Control Manager for CDH.
Although daily cases have seen a slight decline, Ada County is still in the highly transmissible zone for COVID-19 per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
“That high level of transmission just means, we're still seeing more people infected with COVID-19 than we would like to. We would really like to see those numbers come down and we do believe we can drop out of that high level of transmission with continued vaccination and booster shots and those mitigation measures,” CDH Public Information Officer Rachel Garceau said.
Idaho is investing in a way to test for COVID-19 from wastewater. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is using federal money to fund labs to analyze wastewater samples across the state, something the City of Boise has been doing since early in the pandemic.
Labs are able to track the data over time to see spikes in COVID-19 rates. The City of Boise sends separate samples to the University of Missouri three times a week for variant testing.
In the future, wastewater testing could give public health officials important information about more than COVID-19.
Omicron was first detected in South Africa on November 24 and has been identified as a "variant of concern" due to its ability to spread, according to the World Health Organization. The variant was first detected in the U.S. on December 1 in California in a person who recently returned from travel in South Africa.
The PCR tests which the state currently uses can identify the omicron variant, according to Idaho’s top health leaders.
“The pandemic is still going on and with the new variant, yeah there's another new layer of worry and of concern, but here’s what I would tell people; continue all of the mitigation measures that we’ve been doing. Don't panic. There's no reason to panic, but continue to get those vaccinations, continue to get the booster shots,” Garceau said.
Other Idaho health officials continue to urge Idahoans to get vaccinated to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.