Garfield County COVID death, case counts continue to rise
Garfield County, like much of Colorado, has seen a rise in both deaths due to COVID-19 and cases in general over the past month to six weeks.
Eight new deaths among county residents attributed to the virus were reported from Oct. 1 through Tuesday and since confirmed by Garfield County Coroner Robert Glassmire.
Most of those newly confirmed deaths were added to the county’s COVID-19 data web page this week.
The recent deaths include the youngest person in the county to die from the disease, a 34-year-old male, as reported by Garfield County Public Health on Oct. 12.
Since then, seven additional deaths were confirmed, GCPH spokeswoman Carrie Godes said Tuesday.
Of the five reported new deaths due to COVID-19 between Oct. 1 and Nov. 1, all of the individuals were unvaccinated, the youngest being in his early 30s, two in their early 50s, one who was mid-60s and one mid- 70s, Godes said.
One was a female, the others male, and four of the five had been hospitalized, she said.
As of Tuesday, the county had confirmed 67 total deaths due to COVID-19 since spring of 2020. Public Health was tracking four county residents who are hospitalized, either within the county or transferred to other hospitals in the state.
Garfield County has confirmed 136 new cases over the past seven days, for an incidence rate of 226 per 100,000 people.
The trend has reversed slightly over the past week, from a recent high of 192 cases between Oct. 19-25 and an incidence rate over 300 per 100,000.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment uses a benchmark of fewer than 30 cases per 100,000 with a test positivity rate of less than 5% for a county to be in the lowest-risk category.
Garfield County, with its high incidence rate and a seven-day test positivity rate of 9%, remains in the state’s second-highest risk category.
About two-thirds of recent new cases involve unvaccinated individuals, according to the county’s latest statistics.
Meanwhile, the county has stagnated at a 67% fully vaccinated rate among its eligible population for several weeks. That figure does not reflect the new federal approval for children ages 5-11 to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.
Commissioners get antibody treatment lesson
Meanwhile, representatives of Garfield County’s two hospitals advised county commissioners Monday that they offer a common lab-based antibody treatment that’s proven effective in keeping COVID-19 patients out of hospital beds and off ventilators.
But its availability shouldn’t be seen as a substitute to the effective prevention provided by getting vaccinated against the virus in the first place, representatives for Valley View and Grand River hospitals both said.
Valley View in Glenwood Springs has been offering monoclonal antibody treatment since it was first approved in December 2020, said Dr. David Brooks, chief medical officer at the hospital.
The treatment involves laboratory-manufactured antibodies produced from the B cells of people who are infected with COVID-19.
It’s derived from a lab and involves passive treatment after a person has been infected, rather than the active immunization provided via the vaccine, which triggers the body’s natural immune system to ward off the virus in the first place, he explained.
Brooks said evidence has shown that when somebody who’s been infected or exposed has a high-risk medical condition, monoclonal antibody treatment can reduce the risk of hospitalization by about 70%.
“It’s not a substitute for vaccination, but it is an effective early intervention,” he said.
Valley View administers about 10 to 15 such treatments per week, he said, but it is generally reserved for those who are at the most risk.
“We are quite open to giving it and want to give it; we just need people to order it,” Brooks said.
Once someone is hospitalized and on oxygen therapy, it’s too late though, he said.
Jessica Menu, director of infection control/infusion at Grand River Hospital in Rifle, said Grand River also administers about 15 monoclonal antibody treatments per week.
“It’s definitely available, but it’s definitely not a substitute to vaccination,” she agreed.
The advice came at the request of County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, who said he was curious about the treatment after Gov. Jared Polis last week deployed mobile units around the state to administer it in an effort to help reduce hospitalization amid the latest uptick in COVID-19 cases across the state.
“We need to get this information out to the public,” Jankovsky said.
Garfield County Public Health Director Yvonne Long advised that not everyone can qualify for the treatment, as its based on being at risk or having an underlying condition.
“If you’re a healthy, young adult and test positive, the likelihood of qualifying is low,” she said.
Although most health insurance will cover the cost for the treatment, it is not administered for free as the vaccine currently is, she added.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or email@example.com.
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