Virus Outbreak Colorado

A sign to inform shoppers of the availability of COVID-19 vaccinations stands outside a pharmacy in a grocery store Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021, in downtown Denver. 

The omicron subvariant has been detected in Denver, officials said Friday, but state authorities aren't concerned about a new surge arising from its arrival here.

The subvariant was first reported in Colorado at the end of December, state officials said in January, just as the omicron wave was surging statewide. In Denver, omicron's subvariant — a strain of omicron known colloquially as "stealth omicron" — has been detected in human and in wastewater samples. Statewide, the new subvariant accounted for just over 7 percent of new COVID-19 cases at the end of February, when the most recent sequencing data was released by the state.

Overall omicron cases have declined in Colorado and in Denver since mid-January, when the omicron wave peaked, and have significantly plummeted since February. Though cases have ticked up somewhat over the past week, they're still near their lowest levels since the pandemic began two years ago. Hospitalizations have similarly fallen to their lowest levels since early fall 2020. 

State officials have said that, thanks to relatively high levels of vaccination and immunity gained from the sheer scale of the omicron wave, Colorado should be in for a period of relative pandemic calm over the next few months. The only wrinkle that may disrupt that, they said, would be the arrival of a new, more transmissible variant that escapes previous immunity, as omicron did.

But omicron's subvariant, at least thus far, has shown it's not going to reverse those trends here, officials say. It has  led to an increase in cases in Europe, however.

"At this time, based on current data and projections from federal and state partners, the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment is not concerned about a surge in cases as seen with previous COVID-19 variants," the agency said in a Friday morning press release. "Trends in data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate there likely won’t be a surge in cases as seen with the previous variant because of environmental factors, low overall transmission and community behavior."

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