Connect with us


Five things to know about omicron, new COVID-19 ‘variant of concern’



Five things to know about omicron, new COVID-19 ‘variant of concern’

(THE HILL) – The announcement of a COVID-19 variant called B.1.1529 this week by scientists in South Africa, where it was first detected, has sent governments and financial markets around the world reeling.

The World Health Organization (WHO) held an emergency meeting on Friday, where it designated the new strain, which it called omicron, a “variant of concern,” or VOC, a label applied when a particular strain is especially virulent, transmissible or able to defeat public health measures.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average suffered its worst single-day drop of the year, plummeting more than 900 points.

And multiple nations, including the U.S., quickly imposed travel restrictions as the omicron variant was also detected in Israel, Hong Kong, Botswana and Belgium.

Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said Friday the U.S. is “rushing” to obtain information on B.1.1529, but emphasized there is not enough data for immediate action.

Here’s what to know about omicron:

U.S. restricts travel to southern Africa

U.S. senior administration officials said Friday the U.S. would restrict travel to eight African countries starting Monday due to the variant. 

The countries affected are South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.

Officials say the move was made out of an “abundance of caution” and was recommended by U.S. government medical experts and the COVID-19 Response Team. The restriction does not apply to American citizens or lawful permanent residents. 

Fauci said in an interview with CNN Friday U.S. and South African scientists will have a meeting regarding the new variant and its molecular makeup.

Although Fauci says no cases have been detected so far in the U.S., he added scientists need more information on the variant’s molecular makeup to test for it. 

“Right now, we’re getting the material together with our South African colleagues to get a situation where you could actually directly test it. So, right now you’re talking about sort of like a red flag that this might be an issue — but we don’t know,” Fauci said.

“Once you test it, you’ll know for sure whether or not it does or does not evade the antibodies that we make — for example against the virus, through a vaccine,” he added. “The answer is we don’t know right now, but we’re going to find out for sure.”

Omicron has a high number of mutations

“This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning,” the WHO said in a Friday statement. “Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs.”

Tulio de Oliveira, a bio-informatics professor at two universities in South Africa, said during the press conference there Thursday the new variant is “clearly different” than past ones such as delta.

De Oliveira said at least 50 B.1.1529 mutations have been identified, with more than 30 in the spike protein, the region that interacts with human cells prior to cell entry.

Fauci said in an interview with CNN on Friday the variant is spreading at “a reasonably rapid rate.”

One hundred new cases so far have been linked to the B.1.1529, said Anne von Gottberg, a clinical microbiologist and head of respiratory diseases at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases. 

Although it is unclear whether the current coronavirus vaccines will be as effective against the new variant, many scientists appear confident they will, as was the case for other variants such as the highly contagious delta. 

Spike protein leads to concerns

A particular concern in the new variant are the mutations affecting the spike protein, which could potentially make it more contagious.

Fauci told the outlet the mutations in the spike protein “are raising some concern, particularly with regard to possibly transmissibility increase, and possibly evasion of immune response.”

The U.K. Health Security Agency has also recognized the potential for the mutations in the spike protein to make the variant more transmissible; however, more evidence is needed to support the conclusions.

First found in South Africa, but now appearing elsewhere

The first case of the B.1.1529 variant was detected in South Africa, which has struggled to contain the coronavirus along with its ongoing AIDS/HIV concerns.

Francois Balloux, director of the UCL Genetics Institute, said the new variant likely developed in an immunocompromised person since the virus can last longer than normal in those individuals.

It is possible the variant occurred in an individual who was untreated for AIDS/HIV, as South Africa has the world’s highest AIDS rate. 

The number of cases rapidly increased in South Africa as only 100 were found earlier this month and more than 1,200 cases in the country were known as of Wednesday, Axios reported.

As a result, at least 10 countries have banned travel from southern African regions in an attempt to keep the virus from spreading. 

Cases, however, have already been identified in Europe and Eastern Asia.

It is tanking markets

The announcement of the new variant has tanked markets across the world as concerns raise on how much longer the B.1.1529 could make the pandemic last. 

On Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 900 points with stocks in oil, technology and electric vehicle companies dropping significantly. 

Japan’s Nikkei and China’s Hang Seng index each fell by 2 percent as countries move to restrict travel.

—Updated at 2:29 p.m.

google news


These Colorado towns are great in winter – even if you don’t ski



These Colorado towns are great in winter – even if you don’t ski

Not being a skier in Colorado is the equivalent of blurting “Voldemort” at Hogwarts. People look at you in shock. How dare you not ski?! The thing is, skiing and snowboarding can be pricey — season pass or lift tickets, skis or snowboard, boots, helmet, and layers of cold-weather gear. Plus, trying to get anywhere in the mountains along  I-70 is so … trying.

So what else is there to do, then?

Turns out, there’s a lot more to Colorado in the winter than shredding pow. You can snowshoe to a glorious, four-course dinner, spectate at an elite ice climbing competition, soak your muscles in a hot springs, or ride through a snowy wonderland by train. Read on for tips for finding winter fun off the slopes.

Daniel Brenner, Special to the Denver Post

A competitor loses an edge during the 72nd Running of Leadville Skijoring on March 8, 2020, in Leadville.


Billed as the highest city in the country, Leadville is surrounded by fourteeners and is home to snow almost year-round. You could try summiting a peak, but this is recommended only if you have experience climbing in winter. Fortunately, you don’t have to climb one to enjoy great mountain views. There are world-renowned trails for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Or take the 1-mile trail to the Tennessee Pass Cookhouse for a four-course dinner with a backdrop like no other.

Plan your visit around Crystal Carnival Weekend (March 5-6) and enjoy the skijoring — kind of like waterskiing, but instead of water there’s snow and instead of a boat there’s a horse. That’s right! A horse and rider gallop down the street towing a rope — and on the other end of that rope there’s a person on skis. They race through downtown in a series of jumps. It’s a hootin’-hollerin’ good time! And if someone in your group does want to ski, Ski Cooper is a short drive away.

1642600101 966 These Colorado towns are great in winter – even if

Provided by Ouray Ice Park

The town of Ouray offers a few glimpses of natural waterfall wonders, but this man-made (and free!) ice park is truly spectacular. It’s a mecca for climbers and non-climbers to behold, too.


This southwestern mountain town isn’t always easy to get to (keep your eye on storms), but once you’re there, you’ll quickly understand why it’s called the “Little Switzerland of Colorado.”

Ouray is a winter dreamscape nestled in a valley between high mountain cliffs. Every year, staff at Ouray Ice Park turn Uncompahgre Gorge into frigid walls of ice fit for the most talented climbers. You can try the sport yourself or simply watch others. Visit in January to watch the best ice climbers in the world compete.

There are plenty of other activities, if ice climbing isn’t your thing. You can soak in the hot springs, walk around Box Canyon Falls Park, drive along the Million Dollar Highway, or hike the Ouray Perimeter Trail. If someone in your group does want to ski, it’s not far to Telluride.


If you’re looking for a perfect après ski atmosphere without ever skiing, head to Cortez, between Canyons of the Ancients National Monument and Mesa Verde National Park. It’s a great area in winter since crowds are minimal and the views are endless.

Finding sustenance (in both liquid and solid form) is easy on Cortez’s main drag and in surrounding towns. Grab a pint at WildEdge Brewing Collective, Main Street Brewery, or J Fargo’s Micro Brewery and pair it with pub favorites (the beer nachos are incredible at WildEdge). Dolores River Brewery and Mancos Brewing Co. are good options if you venture further from town. The Farm Bistro just off Main Street has a new lounge that serves only Colorado beer, wine and spirits. Plus, it offers a true farm-to-table experience described as delivering “comfort food with style.” Yum.

1642600101 159 These Colorado towns are great in winter – even if

Liz Copan, Summit Daily News via AP

Dog-sledding guide Tim Thiessen of Leadville brings his huskies down a trail off Tiger Road on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, at Good Times Adventures in Breckenridge.

Buena Vista

Opt to warm yourself instead of freeze on the slopes with a trip to Buena Vista. There’s a large concentration of hot springs in the area to soak the weariest muscles.

Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort offers pools of varying temperatures and even a 400-foot water slide. Or rent a private cabin at Antero Hot Springs or the Merrifield Homestead Cabins for more of a secluded retreat. Head south to find Joyful Journey Hot Springs or Salida Hot Springs and Aquatic Center to swim in one of the largest indoor hot springs pools in the country.

If something more exciting beckons, try Monarch Dog Sled rides. Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be in the Iditarod? It’s not as easy as you might think to stay standing on a dog sled. Not to worry, though, if you don’t want to drive the dogs; you can stay seated up front. Make sure to bundle up and wear goggles since snow is bound to get kicked up into your face.

Cripple Creek

Cripple Creek is known for the casinos lining its main street, but there’s more to this town than you might realize. Visit in February, and you’ll find the downtown corridor transform into a sea of ice as the town hosts the state’s largest ice carving competition. Artists from all over try their hand at creating masterpieces from hundreds of pounds of ice. There’s an ice maze for kids to outwit, an ice slide for those who are a kid at heart, and even an ice martini bar! It’s a lot of fun for the whole family.

Draft horses with Horses Are Us, ...

Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

Draft horses pull sleigh rides during the Georgetown Christmas Market on Dec. 8, 2019.


You may have to fight ski traffic for a bit to get to Georgetown, but it’s worth it. It’s the perfect family-friendly day trip from Denver. Every December, Georgetown’s Sixth Street transforms into a quintessential Christmas postcard. Stringed lights illuminated downtown and the smell of roasting chestnuts fills the air; you may think you’ve stepping onto the set of a holiday movie. Take a sleigh ride around town, listen to carolers, and stroll through vendors to pick out gifts for the whole family. After you’ve filled up on eggnog, head to the Georgetown Loop Railroad. Every year it features holiday excursions that traverse Santa’s Lighted Forest and might even include a visit from the jolly man himself! Every kid goes home from the train ride with a special treat and smiles for days.

1642600101 868 These Colorado towns are great in winter – even if

Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

The skies are full of stars above the unique formations of the Wheeler Geologic Area in the Rio Grande National Forest on Aug. 7, 2020, near Creede.


You might not think of Creede as a winter destination, but there are few prettier scenes than this little town, nearly surrounded by mountain cliffs blanketed in snow.

Plan your visit to take in the annual Chocolate Festival, where local business owners showcase delectable chocolate specialties. January brings the annual TommyKnocker Pond Hockey Tournament. Whether you’re on the ice yourself or just spectating, there’s plenty of live entertainment and good food. If you’re “officially over winter” by February, head to Creede for its aptly-named Cabin Fever Daze. There’s live music, night skating, curling, bonfires, improv theater, and all-around good fun.

1642600101 468 These Colorado towns are great in winter – even if
The Springs Resort and Spa in downtown Pagosa Springs is like a water park for hot springs lovers — and its just a 30-minute drive from Wolf Creek Ski Area. There are 25 pools in a lovingly manicured resort along the San Juan River. The mineral-rich water will soothe body and mind. (T. Carter, The Springs Resort and Spa)
google news
Continue Reading


“This is a crisis”: 672 people died in Colorado traffic crashes last year — the highest number in nearly two decades



“This is a crisis”: 672 people died in Colorado traffic crashes last year — the highest number in nearly two decades

More people died in crashes on Colorado’s roads last year than any other year in nearly two decades, prompting highway officials to call for drivers to change the way they act to reverse the tragic trend.

At least 672 people died in traffic crashes last year, though Col. Matthew Packard, chief of the Colorado State Patrol, said he expects the number to exceed 700 once the year’s data is finalized. Driving is the most dangerous activity many Coloradans do on an average day despite the fact that nearly all crash deaths are preventable, he said in a Tuesday news conference.

The number of deaths last year is 50% higher than the number recorded in 2011 and the highest on record since 2002, data compiled by the Colorado Department of Transportation shows.

“This is a crisis in our state,” Packard said. “This is a crisis we’re dealing with across the country. And I don’t use that word lightly.”

Packard and other officials attributed the rise in deaths to drivers’ lack of personal responsibility. Too many people are driving while impaired, using excessive speeds and allowing themselves to be distracted behind the wheel, he said.

Colorado’s population and the number of people using its roads have increased in the last two decades but they have not risen at the same rate as the number of crash deaths, said John Lorme, director of maintenance and operations for the Colorado Department of Transportation. Traffic deaths increased in 2020 from 2019 even as the use of Colorado’s roads plummeted during the beginning of the pandemic, he said.

“Drivers must do their part,” Lorme said.

At least 246 of 2021’s traffic deaths, or 37%, involved an impaired driver, up from 212 such deaths in 2020. Data about which substances drivers were using last year was not yet available because toxicology reports can take months, Colorado Department of Transportation spokesman Sam Cole said. The department will publish a report when the data is final.

The final number of deaths caused by distracted drivers also was not yet available, Cole said.

Officials urged Coloradans to use seatbelts while traveling. At least 226 of the people who died in traffic crashes last year were not wearing seatbelts — or a third of the total deaths.

The five counties with the highest number of crashes are some of the state’s most populous: El Paso, Adams, Denver, Jefferson and Arapahoe. Of those counties, El Paso is the only one to see a decrease from 2020 and no growth from the average number of deaths from the prior three years. Adams, Denver and Jefferson counties each saw a 14% increase from their three-year averages and Arapahoe saw a 10% increase.

google news
Continue Reading


Denver weather: Freezing rain, black ice and light snow possible Wednesday



Colorado snow totals for Dec. 31, 2021

After a beautiful weekend with lots of sun and warm temperatures, it’s nice to be going back to actual January weather with some cool air and snow in the forecast. Then again, the warmth and sun are nice too but we’ve had plenty of that this winter.

There are two cold fronts expected to move through Denver and eastern Colorado this week. The first could bring a wintry mix of precipitation to the Denver metro area which is a tad unusual for this time of the year. The second will bring a better chance for all snow but will still overall produce light snow totals.

Winter weather advisories, mainly for freezing drizzle, are posted through Wednesday evening. A cold front is racing down from Montana and will start to bring cooler temperatures and shallow clouds and almost foggy weather to the Plains, including Denver.

Wednesday morning is expected to be a dreary day with low clouds and freezing drizzle (see freezing rain below). Although temperatures on Wednesday are supposed to stay below freezing, the air within a couple of thousand feet above us will be slightly warmer. What that means is that water droplets in the clouds will stay as water until they hit the ground. Once the water droplets hit the ground i.e your car, sidewalks and roads, they will instantly freeze into ice.

The forecast only calls for up to a tenth of an inch of ice to form but that is plenty to cause issues. On top of this, light snow is expected to be mixing with the freezing rain creating even slipperier conditions. All snow, albeit very light snow, is expected in the afternoon before we dry out Wednesday night.

Wednesday all day could be slick in and around town, so be careful. Leave plenty of space between you and the car in front of you and be careful as you even walk out on the sidewalks and driveways – those can get very slick in these conditions.

google news
Continue Reading