New COVID-19 surge comes sooner than expected in La Plata County – The Durango Herald

San Juan Basin Public Health recommends return to masks

Olivia Cates, tester, with COVIDCheck Colorado, performs a COVID-19 nasal swab PCR test on an individual Nov. 24, 2021, at the La Plata County Fairgrounds. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Jerry McBride

COVID-19 transmission rates in Archuleta and La Plata counties and across the state are increasing faster than expected, according to San Juan Basin public health officials.

Chandler Griffin, spokesman for SJBPH, said many public health experts expect case rates to rise in the fall, when the weather is cooler and people are more apt to spend indoor time. But high transmission is happening now.

“Hospitalizations are currently much lower in the state and in our area than they were during the omicron surge,” he said. “That’s the good news.”

Griffin attributed the relatively low number of hospitalizations to vaccinations and booster shots. He said the idea that vaccines don’t work against COVID-19 is a misconception. Vaccines limit cases of serious illness and death.

“We know about this increase in the number of cases, but vaccines and boosters are still very effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths,” he said. “…They are doing their job to prevent hospitalizations.”

But high levels of transmission could overwhelm health centers and disrupt essential services.

On Thursday, incidence rates rose to 245 cases per 100,000 people in La Plata County and 135 per 100,000 people in Archuleta County, according to a news release Friday. Together, the two counties recorded a new hospitalization rate of 11 per 100,000 people in the past seven days.

Sewage samples collected in Durango and Pagosa Springs on June 2 show the highest levels of COVID-19 since sample collections began earlier this year, according to the news release.

The strains of COVID-19 in Archuleta and La Plata counties are a mix of omicron subvariants, Griffin said. And just like omicron, variants are highly transmissible.

“(The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment) and SJBPH are monitoring data from Northeastern states because they began their recent push ahead of Colorado,” said Tiffany Switzer, deputy director of SJBPH. “Their cases have started to stabilize and decline, so there is cautious optimism that Colorado is catching up on its improving trend. To ensure this happens as soon as possible, we advise precautions such as masking, vaccinations and testing. »

Switzer said now that COVID-19 has entered people’s lives, it will always be there to some degree.

I think now that we have COVID-19 in our lives, we are always going to see ups and downs with COVID transmission,” she said.

The health department released new guidelines on Friday urging the use of masks in indoor public spaces in La Plata County in accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Archuleta County is at the average level, so we advise masking for people at high risk for severe illness,” Griffin said. “They can check with their doctor about it if they need to make sure they’re up to date on vaccinations or a booster.”

Griffin said staying home when sick is the most important thing anyone can do to prevent the virus from spreading.

“When essential services or businesses have a lot of sick people, it can disrupt their operations,” he said. “For precautions, masking, testing and vaccinations: these are the things that will help prevent outbreaks and the worst outcomes of COVID.”

He said anyone eligible for a recall should get one immediately.

Free community testing sites remain open to the public, Griffin said. Rapid tests and free masks are also available at SJBPH offices in Durango and Pagosa Springs.

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