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Omicron found in Lincoln County

by DERRICK PERKINS
Editor | January 11, 2022 7:00 AM

Omicron, the variant of the coronavirus sweeping across the nation, is circulating in Lincoln County, local health officials said last week.

Public Health Manager Jennifer McCully said in an email that the county received its first confirmation of omicron on Jan. 5. The variant was detected in Montana in late December, found in samples provided by two residents recently returned from South Africa.

Montana was the 46th state to confirm the presence of omicron.

While local officials can say conclusively that omicron is in the community, they likely will remain unable to determine when and if it becomes the dominant strain. That’s because the most widely employed coronavirus tests in the county — rapid antigen tests — cannot be used for sequencing, McCully said.

She said health officials expect case counts to increase in the coming weeks after falling in recent months from the height of the delta wave.

Upon confirmation of omicron in the state, Department of Public Health and Human Services Director Adam Meier stressed taking precautions to avoid serious illness, vaccines among them.

“We continue to urge all Montanans to use all available tools to stay healthy this winter, including getting your COVID-19 vaccine and booster and taking other measures to prevent the spread of the virus,” Meier said in a statement.

Locally, McCully urged residents to get tested if they feel at all under the weather.

“I want to remind people to get tested even if it just seems like a cold,” she wrote in an email. “What might be easy for them may not be easy for someone else. If you are sick, stay home!”

She pointed to the Center for Asbestos Related Disease, which offers testing in the morning from Monday through Thursday, as one way to get checked. The Community Health Center offers testing in the afternoon, Monday to Friday. Libby Clinic and Cabinet Peaks Family Medicine also offer testing options, she said.

Nearly two years into the pandemic, the county has seen 73 deaths from COVID-19. As of Jan. 7, there were 129 active cases in the county.