County COVID case rates slow down for a second week in a row

Community clinics will resume in the New Year

[ By Katherine Nettles ]

After an uptick in COVID-19 case rates around Thanksgiving and connected to a youth hockey event, Gunnison County COVID cases have persisted but at a lower rate for the second week in a row, according to the county public health update released this week. Despite relatively low rates, public health officials encourage continued vigilance to prevent another uptick around the next round of holidays as more visitors arrive and more travel occurs throughout the valley.

According to the bi-weekly update, a total of 26 confirmed cases (down from 53 cases the week prior) were identified in Gunnison County residents between December 5 and 11, and an additional four probable cases were identified in residents through positive results of rapid-antigen tests. There were no admissions at Gunnison Valley Health for COVID-19 during that week. However, it looks like three patients were seen for COVID-19 during that time. Operationally, GVH continues to see a relatively high-level of patients, but few of them are COVID-19 related. Currently, no cases of the Omicron variant have been identified in Gunnison County.

During the week prior to Thanksgiving, cases spiked to 66 local residents who tested positive after a period of relatively stable case numbers of around 30 cases or less per week.

Vaccines and boosters
Gunnison County public information officer Loren Ahonen said vaccinations and boosters have continued at a promising rate. “Gunnison County is very proud of the efforts being made within our community to provide vaccination in the pediatric population and recognizes the team effort involved,” he said. “The clinics hosted across the Gunnison Watershed School District have been highly effective, offering a safe and comfortable space for families to access COVID-19 vaccines. While working the clinics, I personally received numerous thanks from parents as they offered their regards for the clinic operations and all of the volunteer staff.”

Ahonen said that since there will not be another community vaccination clinic before the new year, “We do want to remind parents that they can seek second-doses for their kids by making an appointment at the weekly public health vaccination clinic (call 970-641-3244 to schedule) or making an appointment with a local pharmacy or private provider. Both CB Pediatrics and Gunnison Valley Family Physicians in CB are offering vaccination to their patients. Additional information can be found at https://covid19.gunnisoncounty.org/vaccine/.

Local vaccination tracking has not yet been updated for the week, but as of December 7, 27 percent of 5-11-year-old kids in Gunnison County had received a first dose of a vaccine. As of the same timeframe, 24 percent statewide and 17 percent nationwide in the same age group had received a first dose.

Ahonen noted that more than 100 children received either a second or first dose last week at the CB Community School clinic, and preliminary data from CDPHE indicates more than 45 kids received a pediatric vaccine from the CDPHE bus last week. These numbers have not yet been factored into any updates or overall percentages of those vaccinated.

On December 9, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) expanded the age range for those eligible to receive a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine to include anyone age 16 and older.

Pediatric Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines are available for children ages five to 11 years old in the same sequence as adults of two-doses separated by three weeks. More information on scheduling a child’s second dose is available at https://covid19.gunnisoncounty.org/vaccine/.

The county update advised, “It’s important for all county residents to continue to take actions to protect themselves as individuals and the larger community,” including getting vaccinated if eligible; completing the whole vaccination series if applicable; assuring best ventilation for all interactions; monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms; getting tested if experiencing symptoms; wearing a mask if not vaccinated in all indoor settings; washing hands frequently and avoiding contact with your face.

The importance of testing
According to Gunnison County Public Health, timely testing for people with symptoms (and known exposures) not only helps contain the spread of COVID-19, it is also crucial for deploying monoclonal antibody (mAb) treatments. These treatments are a tool that can help limit severe disease and hospitalization in specific populations who test positive for COVID-19. While monoclonal antibody treatments are not available to all individuals, many of those with underlying risks for more severe disease are eligible.

Public Health also reminds everyone that easily accessible COVID-19 testing continues through a partnership with GVH. One of the simplest ways to schedule a test is to use the online platform to self-register.

Scheduling a test can be done at https://my.primary.health/l/gvh. Public health officials say they want to clear up confusion in the community by reiterating that the saliva-based test is still a PCR test, and the only difference is in how the sample itself is collected, in which no eating or drinking (including water, coffee, gum or anything of the kind) can be done for 30 minutes prior to a saliva test.

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