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Garfield County COVID-19 update

Garfield County Public Health building in Glenwood Springs.

Garfield County COVID-19 cases nearly doubled in early September with the anticipated start-of-school spike, according to local health officials.

New case rates jumped from 10.5 to 19.5 locally between Sept. 2 and 16, the highest two-week average since early February. Local school districts have grappled with quarantining and positive cases, resulting in thousands of quarantine and virtual learning hours. Mason Hohstadt of Garfield County Health told the county Board of Commissioners that there is a need for locals to take “personal mitigation efforts.”

“People really need to continue to understand that the virus is still here,” Hohstadt said. “People are still contracting the virus. People are still going to the hospital.”



BY THE NUMBERS

AS OF SUNDAY, SEPT. 19

Cumulative cases: 7,197

Deaths since outbreak began: 57 confirmed

Current Risk Level: Yellow-Concern

Recent 7-day case totals: Sept. 13-19 — 117; Sept. 6-12 — 117; Aug. 30-Sept. 5 — 123

Cases by vaccination status for 7-day period ending 9/12: 110 among unvaccinated; 18 breakthrough cases among vaccinated.

Two-week daily case average: 16.71

Single-day high: 101 on 12/10/20

7-day incidence rate: 194.5 per 100,000 people

7-day test positivity rate: 6.8% (14-day: 6.8%)

7-day hospitalization rate: 11%

Vaccination rate by percent of county population: Fully vaccinated — 63%; One dose — 70%. For vaccination information, visit Garfield-County.com/public-health/covid-19-vaccine/

Hospital crunch beginning again

Garfield County Public Health’s Sara Brainard said that Garfield County’s two hospitals are managing the increase in cases — for the time being.

“They feel that, currently, they are able to deal with hospitalizations or what’s needed,” Brainard said. “But, they have definitely started critical search planning because of the increased hospitalizations that are occurring for Garfield County residents.”



Valley View and Grand River hospitals are facing health care staff shortages and fatigue, Brainard added. ICU beds are filling back up. This was true prior to a vaccine mandate enacted by both hospitals Sept. 1.

Brainard reiterated taking personal responsibility for one’s safety and to help ease the strain on hospitals.

“Health care workers are tired and exhausted from fighting this illness, and it’s taking a toll on the health care workforce,” Brainard said.

In schools

As the school year gets into its full swing, case rates are starting to be released. Roaring Fork School District reported 14 positive cases to public health, one more than was announced at their Sept. 8 Board of Education meeting. Sara Brainard of Public Health relayed that the 14 positive tests resulted in an additional 14 students undergoing quarantine protocols.

Garfield Re-2 has had 13 employees and 43 students test positive since the beginning of the school year. Of that student count, 20 resulted in in-school quarantines for 236 students and 41 staff members. It adds up to more than 7,500 hours of online learning in the district.

Roaring Fork School District has required mask wearing at all times for students. Re-2 is enacting a mandate on Sept. 27 after not requiring facial coverings to begin the year. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment guidance is that quarantines can be avoided in a routine classroom setting if both parties are masked.

Brainard and Hohstadt added that the severity and number of youth cases has increased with the delta variant but has only resulted in one hospitalization since the beginning of the school year.

“There is a significant difference in the first 30 days of school this year versus the last few days of school last year,” Hohstadt said. “We’re not necessarily seeing virulence in our school-aged children, meaning that even though they are positive, we only have one pediatric hospitalization.”

Data on Garfield 16 was not available.

No word on booster shots yet

Garfield County Public Health is not yet issuing third-dose vaccine shots to the general public, but that could change within the week.

Currently, local third doses are limited to those with compromised immune systems from medications or diseases like cancer and untreated HIV. Public health currently does not determine eligibility by age.

On Friday, an advisory committee for the Federal Drug Administration rejected recommending booster shots for those aged 16 and older, but unanimously approved recommending them for those ages 65 and older and at high risk of severe disease.

The adoption of these recommendations at a local level is dependent on another federal advisory committee, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Brainard said she expects guidance from that committee this week and that it will include an age component. While the CDC has yet to make recommendations, the FDA on Monday announced that a smaller dose of the Pfizer vaccine is safe and effective for children ages 5-11.


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