COVID-19 cases rise as variants detected in Sublette

Courtesy photo

WYOMING – Sublette County COVID-19 Response Group not only confirmed its highest amount of new COVID-19 cases last week during an April 3 update, it also confirmed that among the 17 new cases detected were three different variants of the novel coronavirus.

An updated briefing on April 6 confirmed 18 active cases of COVID-19 in Sublette County, 13 of which were confirmed so far in the week.

Genetic sequencing detected two cases of the B.1.1.7 variant among those 17 cases. This variant, which originated in the United Kingdom, has an estimated 50-percent increase in transmission rates and likely increased severity based upon hospitalizations and case fatality rates.

One case of the B.1.427 variant and three cases of the B.1.429 variant were also detected. These variants originated in California and have an estimated 20-percent increase in transmission rates.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that, so far, studies suggest antibodies generated through currently authorized vaccines recognize the variants.

The Wyoming Department of Health addressed these variants in an update on Tuesday. Since November, WDH has showed at least 40 cases of the United Kingdom variant and more than 40 combined cases of the two California variants mentioned above. One case with the South African variant has been confirmed as well.

Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and epidemiologist with WDH, said it is likely all four of those variants represented partial COVID-19 transmission in Wyoming over 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,” Harrist said.

COVID-19 cases have grown in Sublette, as well as adjacent Teton, Lincoln and Sweetwater counties.

“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.”

Sublette County COVID-19 Response Group reported that St. John’s Health in Jackson had no hospitalized COVID-19 patients at the beginning of that week. It ended the week with six patients hospitalized because of COVID-19 complications.

The weekly Facebook Live update on the Sublette County COVID-19 Response Group page for this week was canceled so staff could focus on the annual blood draw.

There were no other public health updates before press deadline on Thursday afternoon.