The first confirmed case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 was reported by Ravalli County Public Health Director Tiffany Webber. She said the confirmation was in the first week of 2022 and that the valley is seeing an increase in reported COVID cases.

In a news release, Webber noted that Ravalli County had 231 active COVID cases as of Monday evening. The omicron variant is expected to continue to spread through the Bitterroot, as it has in Montana. The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services reported more than 80 percent of specimens at the State Lab over the weekend were Omicron.

Webber also said the new studies show that a person is most contagious a day before they feel the symptoms and is less contagious within a week. Generally, the infection period is 2 to 3 days before you feel symptoms until 8 days after symptoms begin. Because of those findings, the isolation period has been updated.

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Now, a person who tests positive, but has only mild symptoms, should isolate for at least 5 days, whether they have been vaccinated or not. A person who has no fever and has an improvement or lack of symptoms can leave isolation on the 6th day, but the recommendation is to wear a mask for another 5 days. The Centers for Disease Control has more information.

Webber said the home test kits have been showing an average of 8-10 positive tests in Ravalli County weekly, and that the kits are so popular there is a shortage in the valley. Kits are on order but delivery is unknown. In fact, Ravalli County Public Health did not have home kits in stock as of Tuesday.

If you test positive in a home test, please let Public Health know. It's not required, but recommended. They can also advise you on how to deal with the infection. There number is 406 375-6672. Or check online at the Ravalli County website.

The Ravalli County Public Health Department recommends vaccination and booster shots, along with usual precautions: wash your hands frequently, physically distance yourself, keep social groups small, mask when appropriate, use a home test kit to help make decisions and stay home when sick.

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