Increased mobility associated with holiday, start of ski season cause for concern on COVID-19 front
Garfield County lags behind neighboring counties and the state as a whole with the resurgence in COVID-19 cases, but that could change with the start of ski season as people become more mobile, the county’s top public health official said Monday.
The number of new weekly cases in Garfield County remains high, at 145 over the past seven days, for an incidence rate of 235 per 100,000 people.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) uses a benchmark of fewer than 100 cases per 100,000 to be at the lowest risk for disease spread.
Yet Eagle, Pitkin and Mesa counties are seeing much higher incidence rates, Garfield Public Health Director Yvonne Long said during the monthly COVID-19 update before county commissioners Monday.
As of the latest statistics, both Pitkin and Eagle counties had an incidence rate of 298 per 100,000, while Mesa County, currently one of the highest-risk counties in the state, had an incidence rate of 506 per 100,000.
The statewide average is around 355 per 100,000.
Garfield County’s COVID-19 case numbers have tended to fluctuate more in recent weeks, Long said.
Increased travel associated with the Thanksgiving holiday this week and the start of ski season in Aspen, when more workers and skiers will be migrating upvalley, could drive those numbers up, she said.
As was the case last winter, the numbers could remain high through until late February, she said.
All the more reason for more of the county’s population to become vaccinated, especially anyone who had COVID-19 in the past year and whose natural antibodies are wearing off, Long said.
Studies remain inconclusive as to how long natural antibodies will last, but the consensus in the medical community has been anywhere from 6 to 16 months.
“That natural immunity is going to start to wane over time,” Long said. Anyone who is immunocompromised or in the higher-risk groups based on age or health conditions is likely to be on the shorter end of that range.
Individuals can get tested for antibodies, she said. However, the diagnostic tests don’t differentiate between COVID-19 and other types of coronaviruses, including the common cold.
Unvaccinated individuals continue to drive new COVID-19 cases in Garfield County.
For the seven-day period ending Nov. 14, out of a total of 149 new cases reported, 116 involved unvaccinated individuals and 33 were breakthrough cases among vaccinated people.
The county recorded 165 new cases for the seven-day period ending Nov. 19, for a rolling average of 23.5 cases per day, according to the weekly update given to the commissioners.
There was a high of 58 cases on Nov. 16 and a low of 20 on Nov. 13. The highest single-day count since the beginning of the pandemic was 101 on Dec. 10, 2020.
As of Monday, 74% of the county’s eligible population had received at least a single dose of the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, and 66% are fully vaccinated with either two doses of Pfizer or Moderna or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to the latest county statistics, Long reported.
Thousands of Garfield County residents have also received either a booster dose or a recommended third dose of the vaccine for those in the higher-risk groups, said Mason Hohstadt, Public Health data specialist for the county.
To date, based on the latest numbers, more than 7,000 boosters or third doses have been administered, which represents about 22% of fully vaccinated individuals.
The number of adults becoming fully vaccinated has also begun to increase, especially as adults bring in their now-eligible children ages 5 to 11 to be vaccinated, he said.
The child age group is still not reflected in the county’s overall vaccination rate. However, an upward adjustment in the county’s population numbers after the 2020 U.S. Census numbers came in recently did drive those percentages down slightly.
The Garfield County (full) vaccination rate for other age groups and by gender is as follows:
As of Monday, 82% of Garfield County’s 70-79 age group was fully vaccinated and 76% of those over 80 were fully vaccinated.
Long said that Garfield County mirrors the state percentage for those not following through on their second dose, about 3.5%.
“We want people to know that they can come back at any time and get that second dose, and they don’t need to start over,” she said.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or email@example.com.
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The new omicron COVID-19 variant officially arrived in Colorado on Thursday, though Pitkin County remains free of the feared new mutation. So far.