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Scientists in Las Vegas wary of new COVID variants circulating in US

Posted at 10:22 PM, Apr 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-16 02:25:05-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Busy airports and busy streets are something people in Las Vegas have come to accept as Spring Break, BTS and later, the NFL Draft, attract tourists and locals to entertainment hot spots around town.

In the Arts District, however, the humming threat of coronavirus has continued to buzz in the minds of locals like Grace Matteron.

"We're a little more relaxed," said Matteron, "but we're still taking precautions."

Others, like Dave Opperman, have been throwing caution to the wind.

"I'm not really worried about it," he said.

Opperman said after two years of lockdowns, masks, and isolation, it's time for normalcy.

"We need to move on and get people back to their lives," he said. "Families being with families, getting out and doing things."

Dr. Edwin Oh, UNLV's head of the Las Vegas wastewater virus monitoring program, said trouble may be brewing on the horizon.

"I wish we were done," he said.

Oh said that while the highly contagious "stealth" variant of omicron has taken over other variants in Las Vegas since January, case counts and viral load in wastewater unexpectedly hasn't increased.

RELATED: What is 'stealth omicron?' And will it cause another surge in COVID-19 cases?

"This is really different from back in December when we saw omicron," he said.

In the Northeast, cases have been rising in concert with the discovery of two new sub-variants of "stealth" COVID, and that has raised alarm bells for Oh.

"Any new variant that emerges in this country, on either coast, will eventually circulate across the country," he said, "and we have to be prepared if and when that happens."

Oh said because the current COVID variant has behaved different than past variants, it will be hard to predict exactly what will happen with the new sub-variants, but trends in the East could point to a potential problematic surge in Las Vegas.