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Positivity rate, hospitalizations trending downward in Colorado

The Omicron variant was detected in multiple wastewater systems in the Denver Metro area, health leaders said Thursday.

DENVER — Colorado now has five cases of the Omicron variant in the state and it's been detected in multiple wastewater systems in the Denver Metro area, according to state health leaders.

"At this point, just one of our five cases is a case that appears that it was acquired here in Colorado," said Dr. Rachel Herlihy with the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE). "In contact tracing, there appears to be a linkage to someone who traveled out of state."

It's been detected in systems in the Boulder area, Aurora, Commerce City, and a system that's shared between Lakewood and Denver, according to Herlihy. She said they're watching closely to see if they're finding "imported" transmission of the variant or more local, community spread. 

It's too soon though to say whether this new variant, which is said to be more easily transmissible, could overtake the Delta variant as the dominant strain of the virus.

>> Video below: 9Health expert gives an update on COVID-19 in Colorado

"It does look like Omicron does have the ability to potentially replace or cocirculate with Delta but I think there is still a lot to try and understand what the long-term trends are going to be," Herlihy said. 

She said they expect Omicron cases to continue to increase in our state and within the U.S., but it's not yet known how rapid that increase might be.

Currently, trends in the state related to COVID-19 are moving downward, according to Herlihy, with the positivity rate at 6.1% which is much closer to the goal to be at or below 5%. Hospitalizations are also trending down but still remain high when compared to the U.S. as a whole, the data shows.

The state will make new data available on its website beginning Thursday about vaccinations in Colorado. The data will track vaccine and booster rates broken down by age groups.

RELATED: Colorado governor, Aurora mayor urge residents to get COVID vaccine booster shots

CDPHE also urged everyone to use caution when gathering for the upcoming holiday and suggested that gatherings are planned only with those who are fully vaccinated or who have tested negative within the last 72 hours. 

Other suggestions included:

  • Staying home if experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Host smaller, shorter or outdoor gatherings.
  • Keep a list of guests and their contact information to notify those who attended in the event someone does test positive.
  • Improve ventilation for indoor events by opening windows, if possible.

CDPHE also noted Thursday that their website, including covid19.colorado.gov, will be unavailable due to maintenance between 9 p.m. on Dec. 17 through 11 p.m. on Dec. 18. That will not impact email communications, vaccine appointment tools.

>> Watch the full presser in the player below

Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Mayor Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) urged residents to get vaccinated while speaking at the Aurora Municipal Center vaccination site earlier on Thursday.

Polis said that only 176 of the 1,227 COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized in the state are vaccinated, which is about 14%. 

He also said initial data indicate three doses are needed to have a high level of protection against the omicron variant.

Overall, Coloradans who have received a booster dose are 47 times less likely to be hospitalized than unvaccinated residents, according to Polis.

About 81% of Coloradans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and Polis said Colorado is among the top 10 states with about 26% of children ages 5 to 11 who have received at least one dose.

"We now face a new threat with the omicron variant," Polis said. "We have five cases of omicron confirmed, but it's only a matter of time until it becomes the prevalent variant here in Colorado, as it has in every other place it's been."

He also said the state believes it has confirmed the first case of community spread involving the omicron variant.

There are currently nine larger community vaccination sites across the state. Appointments can be made but are not required. More information can be found on the state's website.

PREVIOUS: Colorado reports 3rd omicron case as state surpasses 10,000 deaths

Exactly one year after the first Coloradans received COVID-19 vaccinations, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) reported the state surpassed 10,000 deaths due to COVID-19 on Tuesday. 

RELATED: Record levels of COVID found in sewage at Colorado treatment plant

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