Incident Commander Farr comments on COVID 19 variant Omicron
The KGVO has contacted Missoula County Health Department Incident Commander Cindy Farr for a local reaction to the latest development with COVID 19 called the Omicron variant.
âThis is a new variant that has been considered a ‘variant of concern’ by the World Health Organization,â Farr said. âObviously, they are watching this variant closely. At present, not much is known about this. We know he’s from Africa. It has been identified in several European countries, and it may already be in the United States and may not have been identified yet. “
Farr said this variant may have the ability to cause reinfection for those who have already contracted COVID.
âThe things we do know about this is that they think it’s possible that it could cause reinfection,â she said. “This means that if you’ve been sick with COVID with the Alpha or Delta strain or any of the others circulating, that particular variant might be able to re-infect you even though you’ve been infected before.”
Farr said the Omicron variant could be more complex than the first two variants.
âIt contains a lot more markers on the ‘spike protein’ that are different from other variants than what we usually see,â she said. âUsually there are only a few things that are different, but with this one there are about 30 different things that have changed about the virus. So what we don’t know at this point is is it going to be more contagious, is it going to cause more serious infection, is it going to take over Delta as the more dominant strain? We don’t really know these things yet.
Farr was asked about the number and percentage of Missoula County’s population who are vaccinated against COVID 19. She said that since 5 to 11 year olds have just started being vaccinated, the overall numbers are dropping.
âThe total number of fully vaccinated individuals is currently only 59%, as this obviously has just opened up for children between the ages of five and 11,â she said. âWe also have people who decided not to get vaccinated until more recently and therefore have not yet received their second dose of the vaccine. In order for us to feel like we could achieve herd immunity, we need to have about 75 to 80 percent of the population fully vaccinated, and that’s for the total population and not just the eligible population. “
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said no case of Omicron has yet been discovered in the United States.