Omicron COVID variant detected in Southern Utah

Stock photo. | Photo by Gerd Altmann/Pixabay, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The first person infected with the omicron variant of COVID-19 has been detected in Utah, and they are a resident of Southern Utah. The news comes after the first indications that the omicron variant is more transmissible than the delta variant.

Staff member services a person being tested for COVID-19 at the TestUtah testing site at Tech Ridge, St. George, Utah, Sept. 2, 2021 | File photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

The Utah Department of Health said late Friday that the individual is an older adult who lives in Southern Utah that had just returned from a trip to South Africa. They are fully vaccinated and state epidemiologist Dr. Leisha Nolen with the Utah Department of Health told St. George News that they are “quite well; just mild symptoms.”

To protect the identity of the individual and their family, the Utah Department of Health and the Southwest Utah Public Health Department each could not confirm the exact location of the infection other than it was within one of the five counties of Southwest Utah.  The gender and age of the individual were also not revealed. 

It also wasn’t indicated which airport the individual traveled through, though Nolen said there has already been extensive contract tracing around the individual. “He was picked up by family members. There were no exposures on the way back from the airport,” Nolen said.

Some of the monoclonal antibody infusion stations at the Utah Department of Health COVID-19 antibody clinic, St. George, Utah, Nov. 3, 2021 | File photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

She added that thus far, none of the family members or others who were around the individual have tested positive for the virus.

Nolen added that the individual has been treated with monoclonal antibodies at the new monoclonal antibodies clinic at the 400 East campus of St. George Regional Hospital. Other than that, they at home in quarantine, as is the family. Nolen said usual protective protocols were in place at the clinic and there is little risk of transmission there. 

David Heaton, spokesperson with the Southwest Utah Public Health Department, said there is reason to be cautious about omicron. 

“It’s comparable to the delta virus but might be more contagious with some vaccine resistance,” Heaton said. “Vaccination will still likely offer protection.”

Stock photo showing a comparison of different strains of the SARS-COV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 | Photo by
CIPhotos/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News | Click to enlarge

The omicron variant was first detected a little over a week ago as a variant of interest with 50 mutations as opposed to the nine in the delta variant. That initially had health officials express caution about the possibility that the new variant could be more transmissible and deadly than the delta variant that caused the largest surge of the virus in Southern Utah of the pandemic over the summer. 

Utah is now the ninth U.S. state where Omicron has been detected. As of Thursday, there were two confirmed omicron infections in the U.S. Now, there are at least 21.

Early data out of South Africa, where omicron was first detected, indicated Friday that omicron is twice as transmissible as the delta variant. Data had already shown that it is more likely to infect unvaccinated individuals who had already had COVID than previous strains. 

However, there is still no clear data as to whether omicron will cause more severe symptoms than previous COVID strains. The usual cycle of the virus means it may be a week before there is a picture as to if omicron causes more hospitalizations and deaths, though just about all of the cases thus far have had mild symptoms, including the individual from Southern Utah. 

“The data is that it might be easier to get, so caution should be taken,” Nolen said. “But other things like how severe it is, we still don’t know that yet.”

Nolen said it isn’t a bad idea to take more precautions in case omicron is not only more transmissible, but more harmful. Nolen said it is not out of the realm of possibility that the Southern Utah person with omicron isn’t the only person locally with it. But Nolen said the solution for people who are concerned is already out there between vaccines, masks and physical distancing. 

Dr. Leisha Nolen, the state epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health, seen during a Zoom teleconference, Dec. 3, 2021 | Zoom screenshot, St. George News

She also said any locals travelling internationally should at this point quarantine themselves for seven days upon their return.  

“Getting a vaccine is the first thing to do — or a booster. This is the time to take control of what to do with your body. The best thing to do is the vaccine, masking and staying away from large crowds.” Nolen said. 

As of Friday, less than half of Southern Utahns, 44.1%, were fully vaccinated, according to the Utah Department of Health. Also, according to Utah Department of Health survey data, less than that — around 20% — of Utahns are regularly wearing masks in crowded public indoor spaces like supermarkets.

“Wearing a mask is a reasonable choice to do right now,” Nolen added, saying the masks can also protect against other wintertime germs like they did last year. “It’s wintertime and a time to be cautions, and our hospitals have already inundated.”

There is no indication as yet as to whether omicron can better break through the protections that immunized individuals have, though Nolen said the fact that most of the early infections in the U.S. have been among individuals who are vaccinated isn’t yet a sign the vaccines aren’t working, as all but one of the U.S. detections thus far have come from international travelers, and by law all international travelers must be vaccinated.

“The only way you can travel is if you are vaccinated,” Nolen said. “Getting vaccinated right now is the best thing you can do.”

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine

  • Those who can currently get the first dose of the vaccine: Everyone ages 5 and over. Those 5-18 can only receive the Pfizer vaccine. Use to find clinics that have the Pfizer vaccine.
  • Those who can receive the second dose: Those who received their first injection 28 days or more before the appointment time.
  • Those who can receive a booster dose: Those who received Pfizer or Moderna at least six months ago and are 18 or older.
  • Those who received Johnson & Johnson at least two months ago and are 18 or older. Booster shots can be of any form of COVID-19 vaccine.
  • The Southwest Utah Public Health Department remains online appointment only. Some pharmacies and stores are offering walk-up appointments. Check the links below before going.
  • Must wear a short-sleeve shirt at appointment and should have a personal ID.
  • Vaccines are free of charge.

Washington County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department St. George office, 620 S. 400 East, St George

For hours and more information: Click here 

Iron County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department Cedar City office, 260 DL Sargent Dr., Cedar City, 84721.

For hours and more information: Click here 

Kane County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department Kanab office, 445 N. Main St., Kanab.

For hours and more information: Click here 

Garfield County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department Panguitch office, 601 Center St., Panguitch.

For hours and more information: Click here 

Beaver County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department Beaver Office,  75 1175 North, Beaver.

For hours and more information: Click here 

St. George Regional Hospital/Intermountain Healthcare:

Where: 400 East Campus St. George Regional Hospital,  544 S. 400 East, St. George.

Reservations: Click to register

FourPoints Health:

Where: Various locations.

For hours and more information:: Click here

Revere Health:

Where: Revere Health Campus,  2825 E. Mall Drive, St. George.

Reservations: Call (435) 673-6131 to determine if the vaccine is available.


Where: 745 N Dixie Dr in St. George and 915 Red Cliffs Dr. in Washington City.

Reservations: Click to register


Where: 1189 E. 700 South in St. George and 3520 Pioneer Parkway in Santa Clara.

Reservations: Click to register

Lin’s Marketplace:

Where: 1930 W. Sunset Blvd. and 2928 E. Mall Drive in St. George, 1120 State St. in Hurricane and 150 N Main St. in Cedar City.

Reservations: Click to register

Smith’s Food and Drug:

Where: 20 N. Bluff St. and 565 S. Mall Drive in St. George and 633 S. Main St. in Cedar City.

Reservations: Click to register


Where: 275 S River Rd. in St. George.

Reservations: Click to register


Where: 2610 Pioneer Rd. in St. George, 625 W. Telegraph St. in Washington City, 180 N. 3400 West in Hurricane and 1330 S. Providence Center Dr. in Cedar City.

Reservations: Click to register

Family pharmacies:

Where: Several locations

Reservations: Use to find a location near you

COVID-19 information resources

St. George News has made every effort to ensure the information in this story is accurate at the time it was written. However, as the situation and science surrounding the coronavirus continues to evolve, it’s possible that some data has changed.

Check the resources below for up-to-date information and resources.




Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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