State lab unable to confirm Pitkin County variant cases
The presence of variants of COVID-19 in Pitkin County will remain unconfirmed after the state public health lab was unable to sequence the samples in question, an official said this week.
The samples from two Pitkin County residents and one other person who works in the county did not contain enough viral load to be analyzed and sequenced, said Josh Vance, the county’s epidemiologist. But based on subsequent testing, he said he’s confident any risk to the community has passed.
“We feel we’ve been able to contain the outbreak here,” Vance told members of the Pitkin County Board of Health on Thursday. “We feel like we’ve been able to close it out for now.”
County public health officials have sent samples of all positive COVID-19 cases to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment lab in Denver for testing, which includes more than 200, he said. They were concerned about 11 of those samples, though none of those 11 have been found to have the genetic marker that would indicate the presence of one of the variants, Vance said.
Those genetic markers were detected Feb. 3 in the three samples taken from the two Pitkin County residents and the one Garfield County resident, who all work together at a restaurant located within Pitkin County, officials said at the time. Initial testing only indicates the possible presence of one of the variants, but not which one in particular, they said.
Upon subsequent testing, the lab determined that the three people did not have enough virus in their bodies to determine the presence of a variant for certain, Vance said Thursday.
“Those cases will remain suspected (variants),” he said.
So far, the state public health department has detected 37 specimens of the U.K. variant in Colorado, Vance said. In the U.S., 932 total cases of the U.K. variant have been found, he said. A handful of cases of the South Africa and Brazil variants have been found in the U.S. as well.
However, the CDC has warned that the variant case numbers will double every 10 days or so, making it likely that the presence will increase in the coming weeks, Vance said.
He also warned Thursday that data analysis indicates that case counts among Pitkin County residents tend to increase about seven days after an increase in visitors to town.
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Nearly 100 locally-owned businesses negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic have been awarded grants from a pool of $1.2 million in relief funds from Pitkin County.