Southern Ute Indian Tribe confirms discovery of variant COVID-19

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    By Lindsay J. Box
    Southern Ute Tribal Council Affairs

    The B.1.427/B.1.429 COVID-19 (also known as L452R or CAL20C) variant under investigation has been found on tribal lands within the Southern Ute Indian Reservation boundaries. The State Public Health Laboratory identified the variant after sequencing the laboratory sample from an individual with COVID-19 who recently died. The Tribe is working with San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) on the investigation. The Tribal Council and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe Incident Management Team (IMT) issued and continues to maintain the public health orders taking the utmost caution to protect the tribal community.

    On Friday, Feb. 26, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe received results from the state lab of the COVID-19 variant B.1.427/B.1.429. The origin of the variant is still under investigation. There is little known about this variant at this time, but variants become a concern when they lead to an increase in disease transmission or severity, when they cannot be detected by current diagnostic tests, or when they reduce the effectiveness of treatments or vaccines. Researchers in California, where the variant appears to be spreading more commonly, have stated that preliminary data suggest it may spread more easily than other forms of the virus, but not to the level of other variants of concern like B.1.1.7  (UK variant).

    CDPHE is taking the lead on the investigation, including contact tracing, interviews and re-interviews, and monitoring in close collaboration and communication with the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and SJBPH. Mutations are common, as viruses are constantly changing. Public health officials study these variants to learn more about the virus and to control their spread.

    At this time, there is no reason to believe the presence of this variant on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation is related to the Southern Ute Indian Tribe’s case count.

    Symptoms of the virus include:

    • Fever
    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath
    • Fatigue
    • Muscle or body aches
    • Headache
    • New loss of taste or smell
    • Sore throat
    • Congestions or runny nose
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Diarrhea

    If you are sick, please self-isolate and seek testing. If your symptoms begin to worsen, please call your primary healthcare provider or the Southern Ute Health Center at 563-4581. Do not arrive at your doctor’s office without calling to notify them of your symptoms.

    Quarantine is more stringent for people who are exposed to a variant. Individuals who are exposed or produce a positive test, should quarantine for 14-days unless instructed to quarantine for a longer duration by a public health or medical professional.

    Enrolled Southern Ute tribal members and IHS-eligible individuals can call the Southern Ute Health Center at 563-4581 to schedule an appointment to receive a COVID-19 test. Individuals who are not IHS-eligible can find testing locations by visiting the San Juan Basin Public Health department website at https://sjbpublichealth.org/testing/

    The Southern Ute Indian Tribe has upcoming vaccination and testing events on the following days:

    • March 3 – First Dose (Pfizer) Vaccination Event
    • March 4, 10 and 11 – Second Dose Booster Vaccination Event
    • April 4 and 5 – Voluntary Drive-thru Viral Testing Event

    COVID-19 tests will be optional at the upcoming tribal vaccination events. Those who are not eligible for a tribal vaccination event can find information on local vaccination providers on the SJBPH Vaccination website at https://sjbpublichealth.org/covid-19/vaccine/

    More information is available by calling the Southern Ute Indian Tribe’s COVID-19 Call Center Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at 970.563.0214.

    It is important that all individuals within the Southern Ute Indian Reservation follow the safety guidance in place to help slow or stop the spread of the virus. The tribal ‘Stay at Home’ Order and public health order requiring the use of face coverings remain in effect.

    Please continue to practice good hygiene by washing your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects in your home. As a reminder, please stay home and only leave for essential activities. When you must leave your home, continue to practice social distancing by staying 6 feet away from others. Stay connected with your loved ones and our tribal elders.