This Colorado town is about as vaccinated as it can get. COVID still isn’t over there. – The Denver Post

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” The pandemic is just still going on,” stated DeAnne Gallegos, the countys public information officer and director of the local chamber of commerce. The county decided to backtrack: “We went back to the tools that we knew we had,” Gallegos said. The countys public health director, Becky Joyce, for example, does everything from contact tracing and COVID testing to putting shots in arms. And public health professionals said San Juan County shows that procedures such as masks, ventilation and distancing are also needed. The month-long mandate was then lifted Sept. 10, as the county had dropped back to a low COVID transmission rate.

She pointed to the experience of an epidemiologist who wrote in August in The Baltimore Sun that he d captured COVID at a houseparty where all 14 guests and the host were immunized. The host had infected him and nine others. “As incredible as they are in keeping people out of the health center and alive, we cant depend on them alone to avoid infection,” Sosin said of the vaccines.
And public health professionals stated San Juan County shows that measures such as masks, ventilation and distancing are also required. They are circulating the “Swiss cheese” design of COVID defense, in which each prevention step (or layer of cheese) has holes in it, however when stacked together they produce an effective defense. Sosin said rural locations, in specific, might require those layers of defense because homeowners are typically firmly linked, and illness takes a trip rapidly within socials media.
Joyce, the public health director, who decreased an interview request, wrote on Facebook in August that the countys current experience proved “the vaccine produces a line of defense however does not make us invincible to this disease or the variants.”.
Raifman views that realization– paired with San Juans ensuing indoor mask requirement– as a success at a turning point. The month-long required was then raised Sept. 10, as the county had hung back to a low COVID transmission rate. At the time, it was the only county in Colorado with such low transmission.
” This is the moment where we kind of define: How are we managing the infection over the longer term?” Raifman stated. “So far, were defining that we do not manage it; we let it handle us.”.
Even after lifting its mask mandate, the Facebook page of the countys public health department urges locals to use masks and “take note of the COVID-19 circumstance just as you take note of the weather condition.”.
Kaiser Health News is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

By Rae Ellen Bichell, Kaiser Health News
San Juan County, Colorado, can boast that 99.9% of its eligible population has actually received a minimum of one dosage of COVID-19 vaccine, putting it in the top 10 counties in the country, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If vaccines were the particular armor against COVIDs spread, then on paper, San Juan County, with its 730 or two homeowners on file, would be one of the most bulletproof places in the country.
Yet the past couple of months have actually shown the intricacy of this phase of the pandemic. Even in an extremely vaccinated location, the shots alone arent enough due to the fact that geographical borders are porous, vaccine effectiveness may be subsiding gradually and the delta variant is extremely infectious. Infectious-disease experts say masks are still necessary to control the spread of the infection.
The county logged its very first hospitalizations of the pandemic in early August– this year, not 2020. 3 ended up on ventilators: Two recovered and the third, a 53-year-old female, died at the end of August.
Those cases and even the ones that didnt need hospitalization raised the alarms for the county with a single incorporated town: Silverton. Its a tightknit previous mining community nestled in the mountains of southwestern Colorado, where avalanches and snowstorms often obstruct the lone roadway that goes through.
” The pandemic is just still going on,” said DeAnne Gallegos, the countys public information officer and director of the regional chamber of commerce. “We kept thinking it was going to end before this summertime. Then we were believing in November. Now were like, No, we do not know when.”.
The county decided to backtrack: “We went back to the tools that we knew we had,” Gallegos said. “Mask required indoors and then dissuading indoor occasions.” Outside occasions continued, such as a brass band concert on the courthouse steps, and the locations signature Hardrockers Holidays mining competitors, with its pneumatic mucking and spike driving.
On the whole, when the under-12 set is taken into account, 85% of the countys total population is totally immunized. Theres what Gallegos explained as “the tsunami of tourism”– the day-to-day increase of people arriving on the historic railway from Durango and the dusty jeep tracks through the mountains.
The countys two-week incidence soared in August to the highest rate in the state, and stayed there for the majority of the month. Although that spike totaled up to a grand total of about 40 known cases, it was nearly as numerous as the county had actually logged throughout the whole of the pandemic– and cases spilled into the immunized as well.
Any number of cases would be a huge offer in a small location without its own hospital. “We are all one-man bands just trying to make it happen,” Gallegos stated. The countys public health director, Becky Joyce, for instance, does everything from contact tracing and COVID testing to putting shots in arms. And when the county rebooted its mask mandate, it was Gallegos who developed the indications and spent her weekend zip-tying them around town.
The most significant concentration of COVID cases took place at a RV park and a music celebration driven inside your home by rain.
” It makes good sense that coming out of 3 or 4 weeks of simply jamming tourist, individuals were starting to get ill who work in the restaurants, at the recreational vehicle parks,” Gallegos said. “And then you bring all the residents condensed together for a couple of nights of concerts and it was simply the trifecta.”.
Dana Chambers, who runs the hardware shop in Silverton, was vaccinated as soon as possible. She stated going back to a mask mandate felt in some ways like “a step back.” But, she said, services like hers require the summer season tourism rush to survive the peaceful winter, when just a couple of hundred travelers come, mainly to jump out of helicopters onto ski surface. “If we need to use the mask, thats what well do.”.
Julia Raifman, a Boston University School of Public Health epidemiologist who is following state pandemic policies, isnt shocked COVID can assault a place like San Juan County regardless of high vaccination rates.
Data reveals the vaccines secure versus death and hospitalization due to COVID. “Even in the best-case scenario– if vaccines minimize transmission by 80%– youre in fact twice as likely to get COVID now than you were in July,” Raifman stated, due to the infections current proliferation.
Many local and national leaders, including in Colorado, continue to focus on the vaccines almost exclusively as the course forward.
Talia Quandelacy, an epidemiologist with the University of Colorado-Denver and the Colorado School of Public Health, said the idea of herd resistance in this pandemic has been oversimplified and over-relied-on. “Its a beneficial guide to have some sort of target to aim for,” she said. “But typically, if we hit a certain metric, that doesnt suggest that transmission or the pandemic is simply going to disappear.”.
Many scientists concur that, specifically with the majority of the world still unvaccinated, COVID is likely here to remain, eventually morphing into something more like the acute rhinitis. “Its probably going to be a matter of a number of years,” Quandelacy said. “But that seems to be the trajectory that we are on.”.
For that reason, the “goal” language used by many politicians has frustrated Anne Sosin, a policy fellow at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy at Dartmouth College studying COVID and rural health. The vaccines are doing what theyre supposed to do– keeping people from getting truly sick, not keeping them from ever getting contaminated– however that hasnt been interacted well. “The messaging around this has not been really nuanced,” she stated.

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