Gunnison County keeps the COVID vaccine train rolling

Make it easy and sign up with the vaccine interest form

[ by Mark Reaman ]

The COVID-19 vaccination rollout continues to progress smoothly in Gunnison County. More than 2,000 individuals have had both shots to be fully vaccinated while another 4,000 have taken the first shot. Some 530 people are expected to get their first shot this week with 815 slated for their second dose.

“We are working hard to get the teachers and school staff vaccinated this week,” said Gunnison County public information officer Andrew Sandstrom. “We should cover a big chunk of the people from the schools who want it.”

The county is generally administering the vaccine to those in the state’s 1B.2 category phase that emphasizes people over the age of 65, educators and child care workers, along with government workers. Sandstrom said the county was doing a pretty good job of running through the people older than 65 who want a vaccine.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is expected to get federal approval this week and that would mean that perhaps more vaccines could be delivered to the county sooner. “That is just a single shot dose so it could really speed up the county vaccination process,” Sandstrom said.

Sign up for the vaccine…or sign up not for the vaccine
At last count more than 7,500 local residents had filled out the vaccine interest form. Sandstrom said the push now is to get a lot more people to fill out the document. “We are encouraging everyone to sign up,” he said. “Anecdotally we have heard that some people haven’t done it because they are in a category that isn’t expected to get a vaccine until late spring or summer. But that might not be the case. If there is room we need the data so we can pivot and give out what we have when we have it. Even if you are choosing to not get the vaccine, it would be helpful to fill out the form so we have an idea in terms of capacity and number of vaccines to expect. Filling it out provides more data and that will help keep us in a good space. The more people who do it, the better.”

The recent freezing weather in Texas that essentially shut down the state could result in a little uptick in the positive numbers. That’s because Gunnison County is waiting on about 45 tests that were shipped to labs in Texas when people couldn’t conduct the tests. So when they are finally out of the backlog, the extra tests could show a few more extra positives than anticipated. “We have about 45 tests that didn’t get processed normally,” he said. “While that could give us a little bump, we are not concerned if we see it. We are trending in a great direction.”

Sandstrom said tests conducted in Gunnison County go to several different labs located in California, Minnesota, Texas and Colorado.

Great numbers
Sandstrom said the valley, like many of the former COVID hot spots in the country and world, is seeing a significant decline in positive coronavirus numbers. “We are at the low point we saw in early November and that’s great,” he explained. “That seems to be the general trend in the state and the country. No one seems to know exactly why that is happening but we’ll take it.”

This week the county’s numbers are in line with Colorado’s Blue metric. Currently the state has the county pegged in the more restrictive Yellow level. If the numbers continue to be maintained and the state shifts Gunnison County to its Blue category, a few changes could be seen. The most noticeable might be that gyms and fitness centers could increase their indoor capacity. Restaurant capacity would not change from where it is now but more people could be permitted to gather in public. The school district may also be able to expand attendance at school sporting events to parents of varsity players, according to district superintendent Leslie Nichols. The district was able to successfully include senior parents’ attendance during last week’s games but a shift in state restrictions could open it up even more.

Free testing
Free testing for anyone for any reason through Gunnison Valley Health has started as of this week. Asymptomatic testing will be on a first come first serve basis by appointment. To make an appointment, reach out to the Call Center at 970-641-7660.

The state will also conduct free community testing events following the Spring Break period. The first will take place Friday, March 26 at the Gunnison County Fairgrounds from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. The next day a free testing clinic will take place at the Crested Butte Community School from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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