Idaho health officials: Omicron in U.S. is imminent, residents urged to get vaccine

Virus Outbreak-Boosters
Posted at 4:41 PM, Nov 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-30 19:34:03-05

Idaho health officials are concerned about the new COVID-19 omicron variant just discovered one week ago. But with so much unknown about the strain, it is hard to predict how Idaho could be impacted.

To reduce the risk of illness and prevent spread, Idaho health officials continue to urge Idahoans to get vaccinated and protect themselves against new emerging variants.

After months of available vaccine doses, Idaho continues to sit among the states with the lowest vaccination rate, with only around 45% of the state’s population fully vaccinated according to the CDC. This low vaccination rate concerns state health officials with new emerging variants — such as omicron.

There is still little information about the new strain. Health experts are not aware of how transmissible the strain is compared to the delta variant. Omicron has not been detected in the United States now, but Idaho's State Epidemiologist Christine Hahn said it's imminent it will be here in the United States.

“Yes, we are concerned. We of course have been watching each new variant and don’t know in the beginning how serious it is going to be, but we know our vaccination rate is not where we would like to see it,” Hahn said. “We are trying to use this opportunity to remind Idahoans that there is an opportunity now before this variant makes an appearance, to consider getting in now and getting your vaccine if you haven’t already done so.”

According to Idaho’s top health leaders, the PCR tests which the state currently uses can identify the omicron variant.

“We are well-positioned to identify the omicron variant as it arrives in Idaho. One of the things that is peculiar about the omicron variant is that it's much like the alpha variant that we saw last spring and that there is a unique PCR profile for certain tests that may give us a sneak peek that its here,” Idaho Bureau Chief and Laboratory Director Christopher Ball said.

Idaho has seen improvement in the last few months as the state’s hospitalizations and percent positivity has seen a decline over the last 10 weeks, according to the Department of Health and Welfare.

Crisis Standards of Care was deactivated across the state except for the Panhandle district, but that area has seen some slight improvements over the last few weeks.