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Garfield County Public Health Department announces six cases of the COVID-19 India variant

Weeks after Mesa County began seeing cases with the COVID-19 India variant, gene sequencing and testing confirmed the same variant in six people from Garfield County, a press release states. Earlier this week, the same variant took the life of an individual in Mesa County who was between 10-19 years old.

Public Health Information Officer Carrie Godes said the variant’s arrival is unsettling, especially since so many things are turning around regarding the pandemic.

“With summer holiday gatherings and vacations all around the corner, we have to jump on this now,” Godes said.

Out of Garfield County’s six cases, only one individual was vaccinated. The release states that the vaccination grants people greater immunity to COVID-19, and in the event that they do catch it, the symptoms are lessened.

Sara Brainard, Public Health nurse manager, said since the India variant isn’t the dominant strain circulating right now, community members must do what they can to keep it that way.

“If it is allowed to circulate and mutate in our unvaccinated population it will become a variant of concern here. Our best defense is the vaccine. We also must continue to have anyone who is sick follow isolation protocols to keep others safe,” Brainard said.

The release states vaccinated individuals do not need to quarantine after exposure unless they begin to show symptoms. For those who aren’t vaccinated, they should quarantine for 10 days since the exposure and be without a fever for 24 hours.

Unvaccinated individuals have a higher chance of becoming infected and experiencing complications from the illness, the release states. Hospital related stays for COVID-19 also can be upwards of $30,000.

Brainard encouraged community members to get the vaccine for their own sake, and so that their summers won’t be interrupted by quarantine, something that would be required for entire households even if only one person was exposed.

“Getting that vaccine means you don’t have to stop life because you were exposed. What we have learned in the last year is that staying home when sick for the full recommended period, hand washing, masks, and distance still work,” Brainard said.


Roaring Fork Valley nonprofit helps dispel rumors about COVID-19 vaccine, inform and empower Latinos

A photo of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine vial.

The COVID-19 vaccine continues to become more accessible throughout Garfield County, but some are still hesitant to get the vaccine due to lack of information or myths circulating online and through social media platforms.

Heidi Vargas, a Match Advisor and Program Coordinator for English in Action, said she had tutors come forward to her concerned about their students who were learning English and caught up on rumors about the vaccine that were preventing them from getting it themselves.

“We did have some students, not many … their tutors had expressed that they were a little wary about getting the vaccine, that they weren’t very sure if they wanted to get the vaccine. We also noticed that in general there was a little hesitation from the Latino community about getting the vaccine,” Vargas said.

In an effort to distribute information in a safe space and in their native language, Vargas and English in Action partnered with Dr. Gayle Mizner from Mountain Family Health to answer questions about the vaccine that students had. Vargas made it clear that the intention wasn’t to force students to get vaccinated, but provide them with everything they needed to know in order to make the decision for themselves, based on facts.

“One (part) of our mission is just to empower our students and by facilitating the space to be able to ask questions and empower them to take the decision on their own. And feel safe and like they have good knowledge about it, enough knowledge,” Vargas said.

Post Independent reporter Jessica Peterson spoke with Vargas about what the biggest concerns and most prevalent questions were about the vaccine from the session with Dr. Mizner. Below is a recap from Vargas of the information Dr. Mizner provided at the Q&A session hosted by English in Action on March 15.

If I get the vaccine does that increase my chance of getting COVID-19?

“If you get the vaccine it’s not going to cause you to get Covid. If anything it’s going to cause an immunity reaction. So you can create the antibodies.”

What symptoms will I have after getting vaccinated?

“The most common side effects (of the vaccine) are body aches and fever, and flu-like symptoms.”

How long will I be immune for after getting vaccinated?

“We still don’t know, it could be like the flu where we have to get it every year, but there could be a chance it could be longer immunity.”

Can I get the vaccine if I have COVID-19 and am showing symptoms right now?

“If you currently have Covid you should not get the vaccine, you should wait.”

After I’m vaccinated do I have to wear a mask?

“You should continue to wear a mask if you’ve gotten the vaccine.”

Who shouldn’t get the vaccine?

“It’s a very small (number) of people. Only if you have a certain allergy, allergic reaction to some of the ingredients.”

Can I not get the vaccine if I’m pregnant?

“You should get vaccinated if you’re pregnant, but obviously talk to your doctor first.”

How do we know if the vaccines are safe since they were developed so quickly?

“All three vaccines have gone through the three phases of research and approval. There was no vaccine in the history of humankind that had caused side effects where they caused someone to die years later after getting the vaccine. If you get any type of reaction it is immediate, that’s why they have you wait there for 15 minutes. It would never be in the long-run.”

Have you heard from tutors at all since doing the Q&A if more people who were concerned have gone out and gotten vaccinated?

“I have a tutor who had told me that her student was a little fearful of getting the vaccine, and she actually came by the office yesterday and she said that her student had gotten the vaccine.”

What do you think the value is of having that kind of information in someone’s native language and in that kind of format?

“We just wanted to provide a safe space where they could ask questions. I think within the questions it was an aim to not focus on the very specific myths but have a broad understanding of the vaccine. To know that this has been studied and researched. It is not the first time that they’re going about this, about creating a vaccine and administering it. I think that’s one of the things that the doctor touched on that yes, it was a shorter time that the vaccine was created but we also have more cases to study from as opposed to polio or other diseases that the cases are fewer. This was a pandemic so it was broader, there were more people to study.”

How would you describe the spread of misinformation you’ve seen about the COVID-19 vaccines?

“It’s like a ripple effect and I feel like I’ve seen that even within my family. Of my aunts that are constantly on Youtube and finding all of these videos, and changing their own minds. And my cousins and I are like ‘no, but how are you being so gullible and believing all these things?’ but the reality is that a lot of people are. That’s a reality for a lot of people that don’t have the time or the interest to look deeper.”

Is there anything else you’d like to add about sharing facts about the vaccine with Spanish-speakers and members of the Latino community?

“I think just how important it is. Especially because a lot of the Latino community are the front workers. And it’s really interesting that there’s this hesitation and fear within them because they’re the ones that need it the most, that need to be protected the most. That’s why we thought it was so important for them to know and have that knowledge.”


Reporter Jessica Peterson can be reached at 970-279-3462 or jpeterson@postindependent.com.

COVID-19 cases cause Wamsley Elementary and Carbondale Middle School students to switch to distance learning

At Carbondale Middle School, a positive COVID-19 test resulted in almost the entire eighth grade class transitioning to distance learning, a news release states. Parents and students were notified that the distance learning would begin on Monday, April 5. The middle school considers all of the eighth grade students and teachers to be a cohort which is why distance learning is not limited to just one classroom. The release did not specify if it was a student or staff member who tested positive, but the cohort will be able to return to in-person learning on Tuesday, April 13.

Wamsley Elementary School in Rifle also reported a case of COVID-19, or an individual who is showing symptoms and will transition 97 students to distance learning as well. A news release states that in accordance with Garfield County Public Health guidelines these students will quarantine for 10 days from the date of exposure, April 2. In addition to the custodial staff deep-cleaning the school over the weekend to prepare for the return of staff and students who were not exposed, there will be health investigations done on the individual’s activities and who they came into contact with when they were symptomatic to ensure everyone who needs to be quarantined will be doing so.

For more information about quarantine or COVID-19 symptoms, contact Garfield County Public Health at their Glenwood office at 970-945-6614 or their Rifle office at 970-625-5200.



En Colorado los latinos sufren una realidad diferente durante la pandemia

Ejemplos de publicaciones en redes sociales de residentes de Colorado que participan en la campaña #VaccineFactsCO para motivar a otros a recibir la vacuna.

Desde el inicio de la pandemia, fue obvio que el COVID-19 no afectó de igual forma a todas las comunidades.

Los datos del Centro para Control de Enfermedades muestran que los latinos especialmente mueren a un ritmo tres veces más alto que los blancos. Vanessa Bernal dijo que el Departamento de Salud Pública y Ambiente de Colorado reconoció estas injusticias y reforzó intencionalmente la comunicación con personas que no hablan inglés.

“Como sabemos, la pandemia explota todas las vulnerabilidades de la sociedad y hace que las disparidades de salud sean aún más pronunciadas. Puesto que las injusticias sociales y económicas están profundamente arraigadas en nuestro sistema, se requieren varias soluciones para alcanzar resultados positivos para las personas de color,” dijo Bernal, Especialista de Medios Bilingües para la Division de Servicios Preventivos de CDPHE. “Por esta razón, el departamento de salud está tomando medidas para contactar a los residentes latinoso hispanohablantes de Colorado.”

El puesto de Bernal no existía antes de que ella empezara en septiembre del 2018, y se modificó en marzo del 2020 para enfocarse completamente en la respuesta estatal al COVID-19 y en recursos en español.

Debido al tratamiento historico de las comunidades de color en los Estados Unidos, Brisa Chavez, Coordinadora de Contacto con los Hispanos para la Salud Pública del condado de Garfield, dijo que la estrategia de su departamento se ha esforzado en maximizar la confianza.

Ejemplos de publicaciones en redes sociales de residentes de Colorado que participan en la campaña #VaccineFactsCO para motivar a otros a recibir la vacuna.

“La desconfianza es uno de nuestros mayores obstáculos. Por eso, queremos asegurarnos de que la comunidad hispanohablante sepa que si tiene preguntas habrá alguien que pueda hablar con ellos en su lengua nativa,” Chavez dijo.

Los funcionarios de Salud Pública vieron la necesidad de compartir información sobre COVID-19 no sólo a través de sus medios de comunicación sino mediante asociaciones con líderes de la comunidad y otros residentes hispanos para hacer la información más asequible y amena. Kari Ladrow, directora de Salud Pública del condado de Moffat, dijo que este tipo de colaboraciones constituyen una gran parte de cómo el departamento de su condado se asegura de que la comunidad latina tenga acceso a información fiable para ayudarse a navegar la pandemia.

Ejemplos de publicaciones en redes sociales de residentes de Colorado que participan en la campaña #VaccineFactsCO para motivar a otros a recibir la vacuna.

“Un de nuestros compañeros cruciales es Integrated Communities/Comunidad Integrada, una organización sin fines de lucro cuya misión es construir relaciones respetuosas entre vecinos inmigrantes y locales y desmantelar las barreras lingüísticas y sistémicas que evitan que los electores tengan acceso a servicios y recursos,” escribió Ladrow. “También, desarrollamos relaciones con líderes religiosos confiables en la comunidad para ofrecer colaboración y un frente unido en la lucha contra el COVID-19.”

Bernal dijo que los traductores del estado han enfrentado una carga de trabajo masiva y han estado trabajado en 400 documentos relacionados con el COVID-19 desde abril hasta septiembre del 2020. Otra parte de los esfuerzos de CDPHE para conectar con los latinos es mediante las redes sociales y asociaciones con “influencers” que pueden ofrecer una perspectiva personal de la campaña #VaccineFactsCO.

“El departamento de salud pública quería aumentar el número de mensajeros confiables que distribuían información sobre el COVID-19. … En este momento estamos en proceso de expandir este programa a más residentes de Colorado que están compartiendo sus propias historias y por qué es importante vacunarse,” Bernal dijo.

El condado de Garfield también está implementado una estrategia similar, Chavez dijo, asegurándose de que hay personal bilingüe en la línea directa del COVID-19 así como empleados biculturales para mejorar la comunicación con hablantes del español y para motivarlos a obtener información y respuestas a sus preguntas en su idioma nativo.

“Una de las preguntas principales que me hacen es ‘¿cuál vacuna recibiste?’ … Cuando compartes tu historia, diles que estás aquí y que estás bien, es realmente un suspiro de alivio,” Chavez dijo.

Ladrow dijo que un aspecto positivo de la pandemia es la conciencia que su departamento tiene ahora sobre la comunicación con personas que no hablan inglés. El condado de Moffat transmite anuncios de radio en español y Ladrow escribió que continuará tratando de eliminar las disparidades en el acceso a información de salud de sus residentes.

Ejemplos de publicaciones en redes sociales de residentes de Colorado que participan en la campaña #VaccineFactsCO para motivar a otros a recibir la vacuna.

Chavez dijo que Facebook, Facebook Messenger, redes sociales y radio han sido las formas más eficientes de conectar con la comunidad latina. Ella notó que se necesita de alguien que ellos conozcan, un vecino o miembro confiable de la familia, que les explique las razones para vacunarse y los síntomas que tuvieron antes de aceptar la idea de ponerse la vacuna. La información sobre COVID-19 es esencial, y Bernal dijo que el trabajo de CDPHE y otros departamentos en Colorado no pasará inadvertido.

“Ellos realmente agradecen todos los esfuerzos y todas las formas de comunicación que reciben su propio idioma. Esa es mi percepción de cómo ellos lo entienden. Ellos lo agradecen. … Eso es lo que necesitan en este momento, necesitan información, información actualizada,” Bernal dijo.


Te puedes comunicar con la reportera Jessica Peterson al 970-279-3462 o al correo jpeterson@postindependent.com


Following public health guidance, Roaring Fork School District plans for year-end celebrations

After being updated on guidelines from the state March 20 and March 29, Roaring Fork School District is having individual schools make plans for prom and other year-end celebrations.

“We’ll be following those in our prom and graduation planning, but won’t have definite plans in place for several weeks. Schools will be developing their own plans in keeping with the guidelines, and the district health team will review them just to make sure we’re in compliance,” Superintendent Rob Stein writes in an email about the recent Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment guidance.

Kelsy Been, Public Information Officer for the district, wrote in an email that Stein and several other staff members meet with public health on a weekly basis to stay up to date about COVID-19 regulations and how to keep students and staff as safe as possible.

“We always need time to discuss changes internally and inform our staff, students, and families about new protocols before implementing them,” Been wrote about the current guidelines in place that can be found here.

On a school-by-school basis, these precautions allow for external groups to make use of the district’s facilities outside of regular school hours and away from studentsl. Field trips now will also be permitted as long as students stay within their cohorts.

Despite spring break following shortly after the lifting of some guidelines, Stein said RFSD has not seen a spike in COVID-19 cases.

“We have seen a steady decrease in COVID cases, leading to fewer quarantines. Public health informed us of one case over the break, for example, which required us to quarantine two students today through Thursday,” Stein wrote.

For athletic events, schools in the district continue to follow guidelines set by the Colorado High School Sports Association, which include shortened seasons and additional adjustments depending on the sport.

Stein also noted staff members no longer need to quarantine if they’re exposed to COVID-19 as long as they have been vaccinated, which the majority of the RFSD staff is at this point. In-person meetings between staff members are now allowed as well, for up to 60 staff members at a time.

“Today was the first day we allowed in-person staff gatherings of larger numbers, but I haven’t had any reports back from schools who were able to have in-person staff meetings. I’m sure it was enjoyable,” Stein writes.



Residencia de ancianos en Glenwood Springs da ‘Un paso en la dirección correcta’ con nueva carpa para abrazos para residentes y sus miembros de familia



Brewer Ballard habla con su padre Perry a través del plástico protector mientras usa la carpa para abrazos en Renew Assisted Living en Glenwood Springs.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Brewer Ballard dijo que una vez que las restricciones lo permitan, él sacará a su padre de la residencia de ancianos Renew en Glenwood Springs para llevarlo a un viaje de un día por primera vez desde octubre.

“Lo llevaré al rancho en Eagle. Nos sentaremos cerca del río y vamos a pasarla muy bien y tendremos una tarde maravillosa,” dijo Ballard, un residente de Eagle. “Creo que a él le gustará mucho. … un cambio de escena y las cosas interesantes que están ocurriendo. Es una pausa en la constante rutina diaria que le toca una y otra vez.”

Ballard pudo usar la carpa para abrazos esta semana durante una visita a su padre. La directora de experiencias, Laine Fabijanic, dijo que el diseño de la carpa vino de una enfermera profesional basada en el área de Fort Collins y es manufacturada por la compañía KD Kanopy. A los niños aún no se les permite interactuar con los residentes, pero perros ya han usado la carpa para abrazos y también hay una sección más baja para hacerla accesible a los que usan silla de ruedas.

“Consiste en tres paredes y un panel en el que los residentes ponen sus brazos y los seres queridos ponen sus abrazos adentro. Todo es plástico de por medio y ellos se abrazan. Es muy emotivo, especialmente para los seres queridos,” Fabijanic dijo.





Perry Ballard abraza a su hijo Brewer a través de la carpa plástica para abrazos en Renew Assisted Living en Glenwood Springs.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Fabijanic escribió en un correo electrónico el jueves 25 de marzo que CDPHE actualizó sus directrices para permitir que residentes vacunados puedan abrazar a sus seres queridos y tocarse las manos. Ellos todavía necesitan llevar máscaras y usar desinfectante de manos antes y después.

Ballard dijo haber notado un debilitamiento rápido en el bienestar de su padre desde el principio de la pandemia. La carpa para abrazos ofrece una experiencia positiva por la que se siente agradecido, él dijo, aunque no puede reemplazar la conexión física de la que él y su padre se han visto privados.

“Tiene Alzheimer, y en los meses pasados no tener la oportunidad de ver a su familia o salir y hacer las cosas que él disfruta, ha acelerado su condición. Es muy difícil para mí. … Es un poco como beber cerveza (sin alcohol) o café descafeinado – es mejor que nada pero no es como la cosa verdadera. Todos en Renew trabajaron muy duro por esto y estoy muy agradecido, pero estoy deseando que llegue el día cuando pueda darle a mi padre un abrazo de verdad,” Ballard dijo.

Fabijanic dijo que la carpa ha sido usada principalmente por los residentes de su unidad de cuidados para la memoria, que sufren de Alzheimer o demencia, y cuyas emociones tienden a ser impredecibles, pero que tener la posibilidad de ofrecer una experiencia similar a un abrazo para ellos y su grupo familiar ha sido gratificante.

“Creo que es raro para muchos de nuestros residentes y no es lo familiar pero una vez que han aceptado el hecho de que hay plástico entre ellos y de que están metiendo sus brazos en un extraños corredores plásticos, es cuando ven a sus seres queridos dentro de la carpa y se emocionan profundamente,” Fabijanic dijo.

Ella también reconoció que el personal, miembros de la comunidad o ella misma no pueden sustituir a los miembros de la familia con quienes los residentes no han tenido contacto, algunos por ya más de un año. Renew actualmente ofrece mesas de visita en las que los miembros de la familia y los residentes llevan puestas las máscaras y se sientan uno frente al otro, bajo la supervisión de un miembro del personal. Pero gracias a la carpa para abrazos, una barrera plástica transparente que es limpiada tras cada uso, Fabijanic dijo que Renew provee una solución para las conexiones perdidas en los meses pasados debido al COVID-19.

“El contacto humano, la conexión humana es esencial para nuestro bienestar. Y aquí reciben mucha conexión humana de nuestro equipo y de nuestra comunidad aunque no es lo mismo que tener a tu madre, a tu hermana o a tu padre. No es posible para mí ser la hija de todos nuestros residentes. Ellos necesitan sus propios seres queridos,” Fabijanic dijo.

Brewer Ballard abraza a su padre Perry a través del plástico protector mientras usa la carpa para abrazos en Renew Assisted Living en Glenwood.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Ballard y su padre pudieron compartir un momento de proximidad física que no habían tenido en los cinco o más meses pasados. Aunque las circunstancias no son ideales, Ballard dijo que se siente optimista y entusiasmado de que este es sólo el principio de conectarse de forma segura con su padre.

“Es decididamente un paso en la dirección correcta y cada día rezo para que sea el primero de muchos hacia delante,” Ballard dijo.


Traducción por Edgar Barrantes

La salud pública del condado de Garfield abre las vacunas COVID-19 para la fase 1B.4

El 24 y 25 de marzo, los residentes del condado de Garfield en la fase 1B.4, incluidos los trabajadores de restaurantes, pueden hacer una cita para recibir su primera dosis de vacuna COVID-19 en Glenwood Springs and Rifle, según un comunicado de prensa. Las citas se otorgan por orden de llegada y se pueden hacer en línea en garfield-county.com/public-health/covid-19-vaccine.

La primera clínica será de 3 a 6 p.m. miércoles 24 de marzo en las oficinas de Salud Pública del Condado de Garfield, 2014 Blake Ave., en Glenwood Springs. La segunda clínica se llevará a cabo de 3 a 6 p.m. jueves 25 de marzo en las oficinas de Salud Pública del Condado de Garfield, 195 W. 14th St. Building A, en Rifle. Todos los que reciban una vacuna en cualquiera de las clínicas se inscribirán automáticamente para su segunda dosis el 21 de abril (Glenwood Springs) o 22 de abril (Rifle), dice el comunicado.

Para obtener más información, las personas pueden comunicarse con la línea de vacunas de Salud Pública del Condado de Garfield al 970-665-6371 de 8 a.m. a 5 p.m. de lunes a viernes o visite garfield-county.com.


Garfield County Public Health opens up COVID-19 vaccines for phase 1B.4

On March 24 and 25, Garfield County residents in the 1B.4 phase, including restaurant workers, can make an appointment to receive their first COVID-19 vaccine dose in Glenwood Springs and Rifle, a news release states. The appointments are first come first serve and can be made online at garfield-county.com/public-health/covid-19-vaccine.

The first clinic will be from 3-6 p.m. Wednesday, March 24 at the Garfield County Public Health offices, 2014 Blake Ave., in Glenwood Springs. The second clinic will take place from 3-6 p.m. Thursday, March 25 at the Garfield County Public Health offices, 195 W. 14th St. Building A, in Rifle. Everyone who receives a vaccine at either clinic will automatically be signed up for their second dose on April 21 (Glenwood Springs) or April 22 (Rifle) the release states.

For more information, individuals can contact the Garfield County Public Health vaccine line at 970-665-6371 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, or go to garfield-county.com.


‘Recovery’ is a relative term for some who had COVID-19

A year after Glenwood Springs resident Dani Ott became the first person in Garfield County to have a confirmed case of COVID-19, her battle isn’t over.

“I’m still on heart and lungs medications, but I’m doing better this month,” Ott said last week of the lingering effects she still experiences to this day.

At 33 when she was diagnosed (now 34), Ott, an asthma sufferer, was in that “high-risk” category when the novel coronavirus made its first documented appearance in the Roaring Fork Valley.

On March 14, 2020, about two weeks after attending a concert at a club in Aspen — where she met a group of Australian tourists who ended up being the first in Pitkin County to test positive — she was advised by Garfield County Public Health that she, too, had tested positive for COVID-19.

She had been symptomatic for several days, but it took a while to finally get in to Valley View Hospital to be tested in those early days when the availability of test kits was very limited.

“I remember being the sickest I’ve ever felt for about two weeks,” Ott said in a video-recorded public service announcement in early December that was posted to Colorado Gov. Jared Polis’ Facebook page.

Even today, she experiences a regular cough, shortness of breath and a related heart issue. After a recent change in medications, she said she feels like she’s finally turned a corner.

Ott is one of the so-called “long haulers” — those who contracted a symptomatic case of COVID-19 and still have lingering effects months, or in her case, a year later.

Since her diagnosis, another 5,300 Garfield County residents have tested positive for the novel coronavirus since the resulting disease, COVID-19, was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11, 2020.

Many, maybe even a majority, of those cases have been mild or without symptoms at all, public health officials have said.

However, nationally between 10% and 30% of those who contracted COVID-19 report lingering symptoms.

“Some people are extremely affected by the long-term effects, and I’d probably say that was unexpected,” Josh Vance, epidemiologist for neighboring Pitkin County, told the Aspen Times.

Ott said her doctors have been up front with her that she could continue to experience the post-COVID-19 effects for a while.

“I still have a hard time breathing and some inflammation in my lungs still,” said Ott, who ended up in the emergency room a couple of times and missing work since her initial bout with the disease.

When the wildfires broke out last summer, it was especially bad, she said.

“My doctors have been really good about doing research and helping with my particular case,” she said. “We’re very lucky up here to have doctors who are proactive and listen.”

Even though she is eligible for a vaccine, Ott said she has not gotten one yet — preferring to defer to older residents, teachers and other front-line workers, she said.

In her video PSA in December, just as the pre-holiday surge in new COVID-19 cases came, Ott encouraged people to continue to wear masks and practice the usual public health precautions.

Watch Dani Ott’s video testimonial:

Juan Carlos Alvarado and his family, of Glenwood Springs, were among those to contract COVID-19 during the December surge as Garfield County moved from orange- to red-level restrictions on the state dial.

“We were quarantined for the last two weeks of December, over Christmas,” Alvarado said, a local painter, adding he’s not sure where the family came in contact with the virus — a classic case of community spread.

He said his wife, Nohelia, was the first to test positive, and the rest of the family followed suit. He said he didn’t believe her when she said she couldn’t taste the soup he made one day. Loss of taste and smell is one of the COVID-19 symptoms.

A couple of days later a friend made a special cheese bread pastry for him. He, too, realized he had lost his tasting ability.

“I was still hungry and ate it,” he said. “I just couldn’t taste it.”

Eventually, the couple’s three children, including their college-age daughter who was home for the holiday, tested positive. One of the kids had a fever, but it was short-lived. The others did not have symptoms, he said.

Alvarado, 38, has a hyper-thyroid condition so he, too, worries about the potential longer-term effects.

“I have a little anxiety about that,” he said. “I also noticed my legs were hurting more.”

Marc Bruell of Carbondale is a ski instructor in Snowmass but also isn’t sure where he contracted the virus earlier this year. In any case, he went by the playbook when he began feeling symptoms and then tested positive on Feb. 11.

He wore a mask in the house and quarantined in his room for the most part, and even put a towel under the door to limit air flow. His wife and daughter never got it, he said.

“I just feel super lucky,” Bruell said. “When I tell people I was sick and had [COVID-19], I add that it’s absolutely a big deal, and people need to take it seriously.”

Bruell said he had a persistent cough but not too bad. He had a slight headache, but no fever, though he did experience night sweats and still has a hard time sleeping at night.

He also experienced the loss of taste to some degree. He said he could taste salt and sweet, but everything else was bland.

At age 58, Bruell said he looks forward to this Friday when state officials have said they will open up the vaccine priority group to those over age 50.


Stronger together: Grand River Hospital staff rely on one another to continue providing care throughout the pandemic

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Coleman, right, and Dr. Cole at Grand River Hospital.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

In a small office with framed photos covering the walls, two women and three men all sat six feet apart. These individuals are the heads of medical staff at Grand River Health and were reflecting on the toll the pandemic has taken on their hospital and personal lives, but not hesitant to laugh along the way. It was in the same mindset that they were able to recount positives from the pandemic and how it affected the strength of their staff as a whole.

“Teamwork is No. 1 and I think we’ve done a really good job here sticking together and recognizing if someone is fatigued,” said Jessica Menu, Covid Charge Nurse Coordinator. “Lifting them up, giving them credit for sticking through it because a lot of people like you said, defining moment, a lot of people in health care want to walk away because it is a lot to handle.”

A year ago, the team did not have this kind of stride when it came to COVID-19— a pandemic that grew in scope and held the world hostage to uncertainty. Dr. Dustin Cole, the Administrative Director for Clinical Support Services, said he remembered the hospital’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Kevin Coleman, was coming back from vacation as the pandemic arrived in Garfield County. Cole said the rate at which things were developing made it challenging to determine what was the right call to keep as many people safe as possible.

“Do we go full-court press and shut everything down? Do we have a little bit of a wait and see approach and see how it depends on the next few hours and days? That was the kind of time frame we were operating in,” Cole said. ”What can change in the next hour for this?” Cole said.

The past year took away the privilege of not having to bring one’s work home. Cole said that it presented a unique situation where his workday was COVID-19, but the virus was also at home and in schools, practically inescapable. Dr. Matthew Skwiot, Chief of Staff, agreed and said he approached a work-life balance the same way he always has — by allowing his daily drive home be the cutoff point for thinking about work.

“I have this rule, there’s this bridge I drive over that’s about 2 miles away from my house that I think about stuff up until that bridge, and when I get to that bridge I try to not bring it home. It’s all about perspective for me,” Skwiot said. “If I can make a difference, if I can help somebody who has covid, somebody who doesn’t have covid that is worried about it… provide some reassurance. I make sure I appreciate the value in what I’m doing with that. And that fills my tank.”

Coleman said losing two of his family members to the virus gave him insight to what loved ones of patients at Grand River were going through. This in turn brought about change to the hospital’s policy, including allowing visitors in the room when a patient was entering their last moments.

“The unfortunate part for both of (my family members) was that they died alone. We’re able to understand how awful that felt for my family and say ‘what can we do as an organization to make sure that doesn’t happen to anybody here,’” Coleman said.

The team also had a strong understanding of the wreckage Covid caused in many lives outside of just contracting the virus. Local business owners are a group Coleman said he wanted to give a shout out to in particular. Due to the sacrifices many of them made, the valley was able to better control the pandemic.

“Just from a livelihood standpoint you know that is a big ask, to ask somebody to close down their business to protect the well-being of another person. I saw very little in the way of people being selfish about that. I think our small business owners were real heroes through this whole thing. They did what was necessary. … I think that was nothing short of heroic by our business owners,” Coleman said.

Despite their appreciation and increase in knowledge about COVID-19, the team is not immune to weariness or the sorrow that accompanied what this past year had brought by any means. Their approach is to continue to take things day by day, but Menu said the vaccine rollout brings an ever-increasing light at the end of the tunnel.

Skwiot added that the amount of collaboration between local healthcare facilities has been greater than anything he’s seen in the past, and now their patients aren’t determined by city limits, but they see the Garfield County population as a whole. These leaders at Grand River thrive off one another’s energy, and as the vaccine distribution grows within the community, they’re all able to tap into a sense of relief and cautious optimism.

“I think for the first time we have some sense that we can be proactive and not reactive. But everybody in this room when you’re in and participating in administering vaccines, that’s when it’s really bringing the community’s spirits up. There hasn’t been a single person from this institution who hasn’t been there and walked out at the end of the day and said ‘wow, that feels good,’” Cole said.