What is a variant?
The virus that causes COVID-19 continuously changes and mutates, producing new variations of the virus, called variants. A new variant can be identified by a process of genomic sequencing, which can differentiate between different variants of the virus. To understand more about variants, visit this CDC webpage.
Why do we monitor variants in our community?
Specific variants of COVID-19 can circulate within communities at different times. For example, the variant(s) circulating in Seattle may differ from the variant(s) circulating in Aspen. Pitkin County Public Health (PCPH) closely monitors the effects of new variants in other geographic regions of the country and world to gain insight into how the variant may affect our community at the time it is identified, and later, becomes prevalent in our community.
How does PCPH adapt COVID-19 responses in relation to variants?
Variants can cause spikes in the number of positive cases, create higher demand for access to testing and treatment, impact hospital capacity, and otherwise affect the safety of our community. PCPH monitors the needs of the community and may enact a surge response if a variant is expected to cause widespread illness severity, increased testing rates, or burden local hospitals/clinics.
I was recently ill with COVID-19. Which variant did I have?
If you were recently infected with COVID19 and tested positive using a lab proctored PCR test within Pitkin County, the sample of your specimen may have been sent to the Colorado state lab for genomic sequencing. In most cases, the Colorado state lab reports the genomic sequencing results back to PCPH. Several weeks after your infection, you may have been sent a notification via email
from PCPH indicating which variant was identified in your sample. Not all test samples collected in Pitkin County are genomically sequenced, and individual information may not be available for all patients. An individual can view the variant tab and determine, based on the date of recent infection, which COVID-19 variant they may have had, although it cannot be confirmed with certainty, except after receiving a letter from PCPH which confirms the genomic sequencing for their PCR sample.
How do changes in variants affect me?
You can view the changes in the variants which have been identified in Pitkin county on the COVID-19 dashboard, by clicking here. The likelihood of being reinfected with COVID-19 in the 90 days following initial infection are low, and the likelihood is even lower if the variant you were infected with is the predominant variant still circulating within the county.s immunity wanes over time, however, reinfection becomes more likely, especially with a variant that is different from the one you were infected with. With that said, CDC does not advise most people to be retested for COVID-19 within this 90-day period, but those who develop new symptoms should be retested. If retesting is only necessary for travel purposes, use an antigen test (if permitted by the airline) or contact Pitkin County Public Health for a travel letter.
Once the predominant variant circulating within our county changes, there will be a transition of color on the variant graph tab. After 90 days from your infection AND/OR after the predominant variant in our community changes, you may note that you could be more susceptible to reinfection.
What is the best protection against COVID-19 and VOCs?
Follow the CDC’s recommendations including:
- Get vaccinated and stay up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines. Find a vaccine.
- Wear a well-fitted mask to help protect yourself and others.
- Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces.
- Test to prevent spread to others.
- Stay 6 feet apart from others who don’t live with you.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water
Additional resources: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/variants/understanding-variants.html