SHERIDAN — Sheridan County’s COVID-19 case numbers have spiked over the past week, while hospitalizations have been few and brief.

As of Jan. 13, Sheridan County had 142 active COVID cases, including 50 new cases within the last 24 hours. However, only eight of those cases were hospitalizations, according to the county’s COVID-19 Public Information Officer Jennifer Graves.

Such is the trend to be expected with the latest Omicron variant of the virus, according to Sheridan Memorial Hospital’s Chief Medical Officer John Addlesperger. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the newest variant is highly transmissible but has relatively minor health impacts.

“Our hospital admission rate has gone up a little bit recently, but we’ve been seeing shorter stays (anywhere from one to four days) consistent with what we’ve heard about Omicron,” Addlesperger said.

He said the county currently has at least one confirmed case of Omicron. Analysis is not performed on each COVID test, so it is impossible to know the full extent of the variant in the community, Addlesperger said.

Given that local hospital admissions and case numbers are consistent with what has been seen in other communities with Omicron and that the CDC believes 95% of COVID cases nationwide are Omicron cases, it is safe to assume the variant is very active in Sheridan County, Addlesperger said.

“I would go so far as to say I think the majority of cases in Sheridan County right now are related to Omicron,” Addlesperger said.

As of Jan. 6, the Omicron variant was the most common source for new COVID-19 infections in Wyoming, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.

The Omicron variant was first detected in South Africa Nov. 25, and the World Health Organization declared it a “variant of concern” a day later. The virus is believed to be highly transmissible, but a recent study found people in the United States who develop COVID-19 for the first time from the variant are less likely to become seriously ill than those who became sick with the Delta variant. Current vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalizations and deaths due to infection with the Omicron variant. 

However, breakthrough infections in people who were fully vaccinated have occurred, according to the CDC.

Addlesperger said the hospital continues to recommend vaccination as a protection against serious illness and death from COVID-19.

“Vaccines are still effective in reducing hospitalizations and death, but we are seeing more vaccinated people with mild or asymptomatic infections,” Addlesperger wrote in an e-mail to The Sheridan Press.

 As of Jan. 10, 45.88% of county residents had been fully vaccinated, according to the Wyoming Department of Health. This is above the statewide average of 43.9%, and Sheridan County is the fifth most-vaccinated county in the state, behind only Teton (85.79%), Albany (53.99%), Hot Springs (49.06%) and Fremont (47.49%) counties.

In addition to vaccination, the hospital continues to recommend safety measures such as masking and social distancing, Addlesperger said.

“Safety measures for Omicron would be the same as any other COVID variant,” Addlesperger wrote. “It is always helpful to wear a mask when in public, practice social distancing and practice proper hand hygiene and if you are sick, stay home.”

As COVID has spiked again recently, the hospital has seen an increase in COVID-19 testing with over 100 tests being performed each day, according to hospital CEO Mike McCafferty. If your test has a positive result, the CDC recommends staying home and isolating for 10 days and wearing a mask if you have contact with others.

To schedule a curbside test through SMH, call 307-672-1004 or visit sheridanhospital.org. The hospital’s testing center is located at 1435 Burton St.

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