Garfield County moves back to ‘level yellow’ COVID-19 concern with spike in delta variant cases

Garfield County Public Health officials are again stepping up public outreach to encourage people to get the COVID-19 vaccination, as the vaccination rate levels off and cases of the highly contagious delta variant increase.

Sara Brainard, Public Health nurse manager, said during an update to county commissioners Monday that the county saw a quadrupling in the number of confirmed cases of the delta variant in the past week.

“That’s not a scare tactic, but it is something to be aware of,” Brainard said. “We do know that it is more communicable and that there is a higher severity of illness with that variant.”

The county has also returned to the higher-alert level yellow due to concerns about an increasing test positivity rate — 5.6% over the past 14 days — and weekly case counts hovering around 50.

“The vaccination is still our best defense, so we are continuing to get the word out that it’s not too late to get vaccinated and that people should still get it,” Brainard said.

Color levels are not currently associated with any increased restrictions but are merely a point of reference for how the county is doing with regards to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As of June 17, Garfield Public Health reported that 52% of the county’s population eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine is fully vaccinated, and 60% has received at least one dose of either of the two-dose vaccines.

“So we still have a little ways to go to meet that July 4 goal (of 70%),” Brainard said.

The heightened concern also comes as Garfield County has reported five COVID-19-related deaths since the beginning of May, including two breakthrough cases among older people who had been vaccinated. The other three had not been vaccinated or had not yet received the second dose, Public Health reported last week.

Still, the vaccine is highly effective against COVID-19, including the delta variant, and the vast majority of recent new cases are among people who are not vaccinated, Brainard said.

Garfield Public Health continues to provide free vaccines on a walk-in basis, on Mondays and Wednesdays at the Glenwood Springs office, and Tuesdays and Thursdays in Rifle.

The Colorado Department of Public Health’s mobile vaccine unit is also operating at different locations in Garfield County during evening hours and on weekends, Brainard said.

She added that anyone who is not vaccinated and is known to have been exposed to the delta variant is being asked to quarantine for 14 days.

“No quarantine is needed if someone has been exposed but is fully vaccinated,” she said.

Brainard added that a common reason people give for not having yet been vaccinated is that they previously had COVID-19 and believe they still have the antibodies to fight re-infection. That’s true for only about 90 days after having the illness, she said.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or

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