Gov. Polis: Omicron likely to become dominant COVID-19 variant in Colorado, urges boosters

By: - December 16, 2021 3:10 pm

A nurse draws vaccine doses from a vial as Maryland residents receive their second dose of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine at the Cameron Grove Community Center on March 25, 2021, in Bowie, Maryland. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Gov. Jared Polis is urging Colorado residents to get a booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine in anticipation of an increased spread of the omicron variant, which he said he expects to become the dominant strain of the virus.

“We’re fortunate to have these safe and effective vaccines, and we now face a new threat with the omicron variant,” he said Thursday morning at a press conference at the Aurora Municipal Center mass vaccination site. “We have five cases of omicron confirmed, but it’s only a matter of time until it becomes the prevalent variant here in Colorado.”

The first omicron case was detected on Dec. 2 in an Arapahoe County woman. Since then, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has detected evidence of community transmission through wastewater surveillance in Boulder, Aurora, Commerce City and Lakewood.


Polis said that data shows people who received three vaccine doses — the initial two-dose sequence and a booster — are 47 times less likely to be hospitalized due to COVID-19 than unvaccinated people. 

According to CDPHE data, nearly 69% of eligible Colorado residents are fully vaccinated and 43.5% of the vaccinated population have gotten a booster. 

“The booster is the best way to make sure that Colorado and you and your family are prepared for omicron. That added layer of protection is critical,” he said. 

State epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy said that because the United States isn’t yet seeing a dramatic rise in omicron cases comparable to other countries, scientists can use this time to forecast what the new variant’s impact could be.

“We have time over the next couple of weeks to really try and understand what the timeline might look like here in Colorado and in the U.S. in general for when we could expect to see a rapid increase in cases, how long that increase might last, how high it might go, what the hospitalization might look like,” she said in a Thursday afternoon briefing.

Herlihy said that early data suggests that the omicron variant has increased transmissibility and is more likely to cause reinfection or breakthrough cases.

Colorado has 10 community vaccination sites where people can get their first round of doses or booster shot. They have hundreds of available appointments each day, but those appointments are not required. 

As of Dec. 15, there were 1,227 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Colorado, a continuation of a decrease that began on Dec. 7.

“We’re certainly at a better place than we were a couple weeks ago,” Polis said.


Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Sara Wilson
Sara Wilson

Sara Wilson covers state government, Colorado's congressional delegation, energy and other stories for Newsline. She formerly was a reporter for The Pueblo Chieftain, where she covered politics and government in southern Colorado. Wilson earned a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and as a student she reported on Congress and other federal beats in Washington, D.C.