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Change in Garfield County’s COVID-19 metrics reflects new stage in pandemic

A significant corner has been turned in the COVID-19 pandemic, as reflected in the way Garfield County Public Health now tracks and reports new cases, hospitalizations and other key metrics.

County health officials on Monday announced several adjustments to the county’s dedicated data web page that has been maintained since the early months of the pandemic in spring 2020.

“Garfield County is in a different place now than it was on March 14, 2020, when the first case of COVID was reported,” Mason Hohstadt, public health specialist for the county, said in a news release announcing the changes.



“As we enter a new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are condensing the daily metrics that we have been reporting out and shifting focus beyond cases in the community,” he said. “We are directing our efforts toward protecting people at high risk for severe illness.”

That shift in focus comes as the most-recent seven-day total of new COVID-19 cases is just 16 — down from over 1,000 per week when cases associated with the omicron variant reached a peak in mid-January. Garfield County had a single-day high of 293 cases reported on Jan. 13.



As of Monday there were four county residents hospitalized with COVID-19. Garfield County’s two hospitals have also changed the way they report hospitalizations, moving to the CDC’s “green/yellow/red” levels as a measure of hospital capacity.

Both Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs and Grand River Hospital in Rifle, as of Monday, were in the green, indicating 1-2 COVID patients and a low impact on hospital capacity.

Hospital officials said they will issue public alerts if they move to yellow (3-4 patients) or red (five or more).

Hohstadt noted that vaccines and testing are now widely available, and therapeutics exist for anyone who contracts COVID-19. Between vaccination rates and individuals with natural antibodies from having had COVID during the omicron surge, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says that close to 90% of Coloradoans have some type of immunity.

In Garfield County, nearly 75% of residents have had at least one dose of vaccine, 67% have had two doses, and 48% of eligible persons have been vaccinated with a third or booster dose, local public health officials said.

“We are changing our reporting metrics because some of the tools that we used in the past no longer accurately reflect a person’s COVID risk when they are going about their day-to-day activities,” Hohstadt said.

The county’s data page continues to provide a snapshot of the virus risk with a color-coded scale that is weighted on multiple factors, including vaccination and hospitalization rates. The county is currently at “blue-cautious” based on multiple data points.

Daily cases, deaths and seven-day incidence rates continue to be reported. Hohstadt said the department is looking at metrics that would indicate a more severe strain of the virus has emerged and is working with local hospitals regarding hospital capacity.

“Despite high case numbers in the recent omicron wave, hospitalizations remained low, especially for those who received vaccine boosters,” the county news release states. “Daily case counts are not the best method for conveying medically significant disease or strain on local healthcare systems.”

The release goes on to state that the widespread use of home test kits presents a challenge in getting accurate daily case numbers, as most home results are unreported.

“Individuals who receive positive results from at-home tests still need to follow current isolation protocols,” the release states.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.


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