WYOMING — The Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) provided an update on COVID-19 variants present in Wyoming. According to the department, a follow-up analysis of positive samples over the past several months has shown four different COVID-19 variants recognized by national and international experts as “variants of concern.”
The Wyoming Public Health Laboratory recently analyzed genetic sequencing from a large batch of positive samples collected from residents since November. The new analysis, combined with previously reported results, showed at least 40 cases have involved the United Kingdom variant (B.1.1.7), more than 40 cases combined of two California variants (B.1.427 and B.1.429) and one with the South Africa variant (B.1.351).
Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with WDH, said it is likely all four of these variants have represented some of the COVID-19 transmission in Wyoming over the past several months. “Because this is far from a comprehensive review of all positive patient samples, the true number and geographical spread of variants of concern in Wyoming is likely greater than what has been identified,” she said.
Harrist indicated the variants are “of concern” because they each have been shown to transmit more easily between people, may lead to more serious illnesses or may have resistance to some COVID-19 treatment options.
“Knowing these variants have been circulating in Wyoming doesn’t change our primary recommendations for the public,” Harrist said. “The best way for people to protect themselves from getting sick is to get a COVID-19 vaccine, which are available to the general public now throughout Wyoming. We still also recommend staying home when you are sick, avoiding large gatherings and wearing masks in most public settings.”
The first case of the U.K variant in Wyoming was identified in an adult male in Teton County back in January. Following the detection, Harrist said, “it is not unusual for variants to emerge with viruses and that’s been happening during this pandemic with COVID-19.”
Since the detection of other variants in the County, Teton District Health Officer Dr. Travis Riddell warned the community that “we really have no way of knowing unfortunately how widespread this variant is compared to other strains— if you have COVID you should assume it’s the more contagious strain and you should take actions to try to prevent that spread,” he said.
“Because the variants can affect the success of certain treatment options, we have shared updated information with healthcare providers across the state to help them help their patients,” she said.
Vaccination roll out in the state has been underway. Currently, about 11,000 people in the state are fully vaccinated. The latest data says that xx people are fully vaccinated in Teton County. xxx have received the first dose. The first shipment of vaccines arrived in Teton County in mid-December.