Headlines — December 23, 2021

Headlines Dec. 23, 2021


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Nearly Half Current Colorado COVID Cases Are Likely Omicron

Colorado is experiencing a sharp increase in viral infections caused by the Omicron variant, reversing what had been a weeks-long downward trend in COVID-19 cases. State epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said in a Wednesday media briefing that the widespread presence of the Omicron variant in wastewater systems is an early sign of rapid community spread. “Here in Colorado, we have now identified the key signature mutations of the Omicron variant in all 21 of our wastewater systems,” Herlihy said.

Just a few days ago, the number of documented COVID-19 cases caused by the new variant could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Now genomic sequencing of positive tests shows Omicron is on the verge of overtaking Delta to become the dominant variant in Colorado. 

“At this point, half of what we’re seeing in the state, at least as of the last couple of days, is potentially the Omicron variant,” Herlihy said.

According to state health officials, the sharpest rise in cases is occurring in the Denver Metro area and in mountain resort towns.

Tighter Boulder Guidelines Dried Up Oil Well Interests In 2021

Boulder County officials reviewing this year’s oil and gas activities found that new Colorado regulations put in place in 2020 are protecting air quality, public health and safety. The county now uses infrared technology to check air quality at oil and gas sites. Companies also must inspect their sites monthly and report results to Boulder.

Forty wells were closed in 2021. Twenty-five were on open space or lands with conservation easement protections. Boulder County now has just over 200 active wells. This year, there were no applications submitted to the county for new drilling sites.

Groups Seek Court Reversal On Boulder Trail Link To Rocky Flats

Doctors and environmental activists want to reverse a court decision allowing a planned trail at the former nuclear weapons production site at Rocky Flats. Opponents of the plan say the City of Boulder neglected to follow a 2016 council ruling ordering the city to seek an alternative path that would avoid the controversial Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge.

The plutonium trigger plant closed in 1992 after its operating company was fined about eighteen billion dollars for environmental crimes. After a cleanup, the site was reopened in 2018 as the Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge. Activists say it still has dangerous levels of plutonium dioxide, which can cause cancer.

The groups appealing the lower court ruling include Physicians For Social Responsibility, and The Environmental Information Network. They say the proposed underpass from Boulder lands to the prospective Greenway Trail would endanger the public.

 Boulder County Issues Alert Regarding Fake, Fentanyl-Laced Pills

 Boulder County Public Health officials are urging people to beware of counterfeit prescription opioid pills that may contain the synthetic drug fentanyl. Lab tests by the Drug Enforcement Administration found that one out of every four pills circulating illegally in Colorado might contain enough fentanyl to kill an adult.

Health officials are advising the public to assume that any pills bought from a non-pharmacy source may contain a deadly dose of fentanyl. They also suggest carrying Narcan, a drug that can reverse the effects of opioid overdoses.

Across the nation, the number of fentanyl pills seized by the Drug Enforcement Administration has risen over 400 percent since 2019. Local officials recently seized over one hundred thousand pills in the Denver Metro area.

Colorado Wildlife Officials Will Compensate Rancher After A Recent Wolf Kill Near Walden

Officials say that a wolf killed an Angus calf on a family ranch a few miles south of the Wyoming border near Colorado Highway 125. The Denver Post reports that the calf’s death marks the state’s first confirmed wolf kill in decades. This comes after the narrow passing of Colorado Proposition 114 in 2020, where state officials plan to reintroduce gray wolves. Under Proposition 114, state officials must release wolves back into the wilderness no later than Dec. 31, 2023.

The group, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, feel that more livestock will likely die as wolves are reintroduced into the state. They say that one of the few ways to keep from losing more livestock would be for state officials to include lethal options in their wolf restoration and management plan.

So far, officials behind the plan have finished discussing restoration logistics. The state will compensate ranches for the loss of livestock, but they are still deliberating the best way to do that.

Currently, killing a gray wolf for any reason other than self-defense is illegal and could result in up to a yearlong jail sentence and a fine of up to $100,000.