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COVID-19 cases, deaths among unvaccinated an ongoing concern for Garfield County

Death reported from outbreak at FedEx Ground warehouse in Glenwood Springs

A “stark disparity” in vaccination rates from one end of Garfield County to the other has led to a lopsided number of new COVID-19 cases split along geographic lines, according to Garfield County Public Health officials.

There’s continued spread of the delta variant, which has become the dominant strain showing up locally, with 76 cases now confirmed, according to a weekly summary issued Saturday by Garfield Public Health.

Recent disease spread also has led to a spate of newly confirmed deaths due to COVID-19, mostly among the unvaccinated and people with severe underlying health conditions.



“We have had 10 deaths due to COVID-19 in the past two months,” Garfield Public Health Specialist Mason Hohstadt confirmed Saturday.

Five of those deaths were added to the Garfield County data page on one day last week, after they were confirmed by County Coroner Robert Glassmire.



“We do not report the deaths until they have been confirmed by the Garfield County Coroner as a death due to COVID-19,” Hohstadt said.

Though the deaths were added to the data page on a single day, they occurred at different times in recent weeks, he said.

Garfield County in the past week also has recorded its first outbreak-related death not involving a long-term nursing care facility.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, in its June 30 update of statewide outbreak data, indicated that a COVID-19 outbreak at the FedEx Ground facility south of Glenwood Springs, that was first reported June 16, resulted in 12 confirmed cases and one death.

Currently, there are eight reported active outbreak sites in Garfield County, including five nursing facilities.

Hohstadt said that, of the 10 deaths due to COVID-19 that occurred in May and June, six were either not vaccinated at all or were not fully vaccinated, or they had no vaccination record.

“All four of the fully vaccinated individuals who died due to COVID-19 had severe underlying conditions that put them at greater risk,” he said. “The vaccine isn’t 100% effective, we all know this, but having four deaths out nearly 24,000 people vaccinated is proof that the vaccines work.”

Meanwhile, local public health officials said in a Saturday COVID-19 weekly summary that there is a visible disparity in vaccine uptake between the eastern and western communities of Garfield County.

“This has affected rates of illness in these communities,” according to the weekly summary.

According to data tracked by the county, Rifle has approximately half as many first and second dose COVID-19 vaccinations as Glenwood Springs, and Parachute has less than a quarter the vaccination rate as Glenwood Springs.

“This has caused higher rates of illness in these communities,” Hohstadt said.

He noted that over the past 30 days Parachute/Battlement Mesa had 66 COVID-19 cases — about the same number as the larger communities of Glenwood Springs and Carbondale combined — making up nearly 30% of all cases for the month.

Of the 58 new cases of COVID-19 reported across the county in the past week, 17% were what are known as “breakthrough” cases — where someone who is fully vaccinated contracts the disease.

Still, out of the 27,314 Garfield County residents who are fully vaccinated, there have been 64 breakthrough cases, or less than 1%, Hohstadt said.

The county also has added gender and age breakdowns to its vaccination data page.

The fully vaccinated rate among adults ranges from 85% for those ages 70-79 to 44% for the 19-29 age group. Overall, 55% of Garfield County residents eligible to receive the vaccination (12 and older) have been fully vaccinated.

The data also show that 52% of eligible males and 56% of females have been fully vaccinated.

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


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