'Take care of yourselves': Utah mayor urges caution, vaccination as omicron emerges in US

Microbiologist Samuel Philips sequences COVID-19
samples for variants at the Utah Public Health Laboratory in
Taylorsville on Monday.

Microbiologist Samuel Philips sequences COVID-19 samples for variants at the Utah Public Health Laboratory in Taylorsville on Monday. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — As the U.S. confirmed its first case of the new, heavily mutated COVID-19 variant called omicron, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall on Wednesday urged residents of Utah's capital city to take precautions and get vaccinated.

"We're closely monitoring developments with the omicron variant," Mendenhall tweeted. "While there are unknowns, medical experts are clear that the best things you can do to protect yourself and your family from COVID is getting vaccinated, getting the booster shot and wearing masks indoors."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said Wednesday they have confirmed the first U.S. case of the omicron variant, detected in northern California. White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said the patient, who was fully vaccinated, had just returned to the San Francisco area Nov. 22 after traveling in South Africa and tested positive Nov. 29, CNBC reported.

Mendenhall, who leads the Democratic stronghold of Salt Lake City in the otherwise very Republican state of Utah, said she's been in contact with Salt Lake County health officials for any developments related to the new variant.

Utah has been among the nation's hot spots for COVID-19, where the delta variant has fueled case count spikes and hospital beds continue to be overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients, most of whom are not vaccinated.

Data released by Intermountain Healthcare for 24 hospitals in Utah and surrounding states show 85% of all COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated, a number that increases to 87% in the intensive care unit.

Mendenhall, in a video message, said she's "listening to the medical experts who are still advising us that the best thing we can do today to protect ourselves and our families is to get vaccinated, get the booster, and still wear a mask when you're indoors."

"Take care of yourselves," the mayor urged. "Salt Lake City, we will do everything we can to keep you safe, keep our community going, keep our kids safe in school, and keep our economy running."

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Katie McKellar


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