The Missoula City County Health Department and Incident Commander Cindy Farr informed KGVO News on Tuesday afternoon that the first Omicron Variant case had been reported in Missoula.

"We were notified by fire diagnostics this afternoon that there has been a case of Omicron variant identified in a patient that was tested here in Missoula,: said Farr. "Right now, we don't know any further information because case investigation has yet to be completed. So I know a lot of people are asking if there was travel history or where they think they might have gotten it and we actually just don't have any additional information yet at this time."

Farr explained what is being done to respond to this first Omicron case in Missoula County.

"This individual we asked to isolate as we do with all patients that are positive with COVID," she said. "And that's in order to make sure that they are not in contact with other people that they might be able to spread it to. So we don't treat it any differently just because it's Omicron. But we are going to be following up with that patient and ensuring that they follow the isolation orders and stay away from other people until they're no longer contagious."

Farr provided her perspective on the differences between the COVID variants.

“The biggest difference is that the Omicron Variant appears to be more contagious than the Delta Variant but it also seems to be a little bit more mild than the Delta Variant. That said, it also has the ability to get around the some natural immunity and previous vaccinations.”

Farr listed the well-known strategies to keep from contracting the virus.

“The recommendation from the CDC right now is that the best way that you can protect yourself is number one, make sure that you're fully vaccinated and go ahead and get that booster,” she said. “Number two, we need to continue to do all of those mitigation measures that have helped reduce the spread in the past. I know everyone is probably tired of hearing me say it by now, but what's going to protect you from the Omicron Variant is all of those same things; social distancing, wearing masks whenever you're out in public spaces, making sure that you're frequently sanitizing and washing your hands. That's going to be your best protection against this variant.”

Farr then provided the current status of COVID vaccinations in Missoula County.

“Right now in Missoula County 70.5 percent of the eligible population has received one dose of vaccine,” she said. “As far as people that are fully vaccinated, which means they've had both their first and their second dose of vaccine, we've got 61 percent of our total population that is fully vaccinated in Missoula County. So far we've had just under 25 percent of the whole population of Missoula County that has received their booster dose.”

Farr said as of Tuesday, there were 13 patients hospitalized with COVID in Missoula hospitals.

The two cases in Gallatin County were identified as having just traveled from South Africa, where the Omicron Variant first appeared.

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