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Colorado hunts for omicron variant as health officials caution that much is still unknown about new COVID strain

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Colorado hunts for omicron variant as health officials caution that much is still unknown about new COVID strain

Colorado public health officials are expanding their search for the new omicron variant of the coronavirus — including by monitoring communities’ wastewater — and said Tuesday that it’s just a matter of time before the new strain is detected in the state.

Omicron, which has not yet been confirmed in the U.S., was identified last week as having been discovered in South Africa. But officials said Tuesday it had been detected in the Netherlands at least a week before the World Health Organization labeled it a “variant of concern.”

Emily Travanty, director of Colorado’s state lab, said during a news briefing Tuesday that the state is reviewing a portion of all positive COVID-19 tests to look for the variant.

“We continue to ensure that we are getting (test) samples in from all across the state and make sure we are seeing a subsampling of everything that is happening in the environment,” she said, adding, “I’m confident that… we are able to see omicron when it does appear in Colorado.”

Public health officials are concerned that mutations found in the omicron variant could make it more transmissible or that immune response may not be as effective, which could raise the possibility of reinfections, said Dr. Rachel Herlihy, the state epidemiologist, during the briefing.

However, she stressed that there is still much that remains unknown about the variant, including the severity of illness that it may cause.

“The reality is we do have a lot to learn still,” Herlihy said.

Colorado’s health department is searching for the omicron variant using diagnostic testing and clinical sequencing. About 16% of all positive PCR tests are genetically sequenced by the state in an effort to identify which variant of COVID-19 has infected the person, according to the agency.

But public health officials believe the state’s wastewater surveillance program, which began in August 2020, will discover the presence of the new variant more quickly than other methods. The health department updated the program this weekend so that it can now detect genetic markers of omicron in wastewater.

Almost 50% of people with COVID-19 shed the virus in their stool even if they don’t have symptoms. So the state is partnering with 21 utilities to identify the virus and detect specific variants within broader communities via their wastewater, said Rachel Jervis, an epidemiologist with the health department. But wastewater monitoring cannot identify COVID-19 infections in individual people.

That wastewater surveillance is how the agency first confirmed the delta variant’s presence in Colorado, she said. The first delta infections were discovered in Mesa County in May.

Before that, however, Colorado was the first state to identify a COVID-19 variant in the U.S. when it detected what later became known as the alpha variant in Elbert County last December. That case was confirmed by the state lab and was notable because public health experts said the U.S. lacked the infrastructure needed to quickly find genetic variations of the coronavirus.

The more contagious delta variant is driving the state’s most recent surge in COVID-19 cases, with it making up most cases since July, Travanty said.

The state is in the middle of one of its worst waves of the pandemic, and while public health officials said the decline in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in recent days is a sign that the situation is improving, they cautioned that the Thanksgiving holiday could be skewing the numbers as fewer people get tested and data can lag around the holidays.

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Experience the best Colorado offers at the Timbers at the Pinery

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Experience the best Colorado offers at the Timbers at the Pinery

Homebuyers can find the “quintessential Colorado experience” at the Timbers at the Pinery near Parker.

“People land at DIA and think they’re in Kansas,” says Trent Getsch at Timbers at The Pinery. “But then they see a place like the Timbers and say, ‘This is what we were hoping for.’”

Timbers at the Pinery offers luxurious custom homes nestled in a forest of ponderosa pine trees on large-acre lots that provide spectacular mountain views, plus plenty of open space and extensive trails for walking and biking.

With a shortage of available homes in the Denver area, the development is working to provide inventory, Getsch says. But the Timbers’ ranch homes typically sell before they’re listed.

Right now, four homes are under construction, and five custom lots are available for immediate sale. It’s not too late to select some of the finishing touches for the homes under construction, or buyers can start from the beginning and choose one of the Timbers’ 13 builders to develop their home.

If you still want to move into a new home in 2022, Getsch has a few options for you to consider.

Available homes

For example, the 4,740-foot Sterling Home walkout ranch is available now for $2,075,000. The four-bedroom, five-bath house features a main floor master suite with adjoining laundry, a chef’s kitchen, a secondary/prep kitchen, a great room, an informal dining room, and a covered deck. The lower level includes a large family room, three bedrooms, three baths, and a covered patio.

Another option for buyers to consider is a 5200-square-foot walkout ranch from Summerwood Homes for $2.4 million that will soon hit the market.

Or you could consider the 5,000-square-foot JW Luxury Homes walkout ranch on an acre and a quarter that will be ready for move-in this fall.

The Timbers’ ranch homes appeal to everyone from young families with kids to active empty nesters, Getsch says.

“One-level living is appealing and with a finished basement, you can have more bedrooms, more bathrooms, and a family room. They’re functional for entertaining and transcend any particular demographic,” he says.

The Timbers draws a mix of people relocating to Colorado and buyers who want to move away from the Denver metro’s congestion.

Appealing amenities

In addition to spectacular views and lots of open space, the Timbers is conveniently located 25 minutes from the Denver Tech Center and 40 minutes from Denver International Airport.

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YouTube pulls Billy Long Senate campaign ad over election fraud claim

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YouTube pulls Billy Long Senate campaign ad over election fraud claim

A week after Republican Missouri congressman Billy Long released a Senate campaign ad claiming the 2020 presidential election was rigged, YouTube has removed the ad for violating its guidelines.

Long responded late Thursday by accusing YouTube and other tech companies of censoring conservative candidates and public figures.

YouTube spokeswoman Ivy Choi says the website prohibits “content uploaded after official election results were certified advancing false claims that widespread fraud, errors, or glitches changed the outcome of the 2020 U.S. presidential election.”

Long is the latest Republican to do battle with YouTube.

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Nuggets Journal: Nikola Jokic paused his game to learn of All-Star news

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Nuggets Journal: Nikola Jokic paused his game to learn of All-Star news

NEW ORLEANS – The joysticks were calling, but so was his wife, Natalija.

That’s where Nikola Jokic found himself Thursday evening only moments before TNT was set to announce the All-Star starters. Like the dutiful husband that he is, Jokic caved to the marital pressure.

“I was playing the game, like, ughhh,” Jokic said at Friday’s shootaround prior to Denver’s game against the Pelicans. “I was kinda watching on the phone with Natalija, and I was playing the video game. And then after they select me, I was like, ‘Oh, bye, bye.’”

Pressed on which game could possibly take his attention away from his fourth consecutive All-Star appearance, Jokic declined to share.

“Waste of time,” he said.

But more important than the news itself?

“No, no, I mean, I was just real into the game,” Jokic said. “It was a funny moment yesterday. Today, Natalija still doesn’t talk to me.”

Jokic celebrated with an international dinner, as he called it, Thursday night in New Orleans. He was accompanied by teammate Facu Campazzo and the team’s Brazilian strength coaches, Felipe Eichenberger and Claus Souza. Jeff Green crashed the party.

The whole sequence was quintessential Jokic and yet another indication of how comfortable he is in his own skin, doing what he wants on his own time. Jokic is hardpressed to be impressed, especially by himself.

Don’t be fooled by his antics. Jokic cares a lot about the selection, even if it was a safe assumption weeks ago. It means he gets to represent the Nuggets, his family, his friends and his native country. The fan votes revealed Jokic finished fifth in the entire NBA behind LeBron James, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

“Serbia loves me, seems like,” he said.

But perhaps more importantly, only three players – Durant, Antetokounmpo and James – garnered more respect from their peers in terms of the player vote. Jokic’s 167 votes barely trailed James’ 171.

Jokic was appreciative of that aspect.

Like Jokic, Nuggets coach Michael Malone wasn’t waiting with bated breath over the news. He was preparing for the Pelicans, not sitting on his phone or setting his clock to the TNT announcement.

“It’s almost getting to the point where that’s expected,” said Malone, who acknowledged it’s still something worth celebrating even if it’s become somewhat commonplace.

“It gives us a tremendous amount of pride,” he said.

Now if it would only yield a more favorable whistle, was the part he didn’t say but might’ve wanted to.

For Jokic, Thursday’s news means he gets to participate in the NBA’s banner weekend, alongside the best basketball players in the world. His goal?

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