By Randi Pierce
On Wednesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) labeled the COVID-19 Delta variant as a variant of concern, with state officials confirming the variant has been identified in 17 Colorado counties so far.
The variant, according to a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) press release, “was first identified in India in December 2020 and has displayed increased transmissibility.”
The variant has not yet been detected through official surveillance in Archuleta or La Plata counties, according to Brian Devine, San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) environmental director and deputy incident commander for the SJBPH’s COVID-19 response.
However, Devine indicated that SJBPH expects that the variant is already circulating in the region and the agency continues to be prepared for surges of the virus while also setting up long-term management.
“COVID is going to be with us for a long time,” he said.
The Delta variant “currently makes up the second highest percent of variants in the state that have been confirmed through whole genome sequencing, falling just behind the Alpha variant (B.1.1.7),” the CDPHE press release reads.
It later explains that the CDC defines a variant of concern as one “for which there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility, more severe disease (e.g., increased hospitalizations or deaths), significant reduction in neutralization by antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccination, reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines, or diagnostic detection failures.”
Devine added that the Delta (B.1.617.2) variant is believed to be more, possibly even significantly more, transmissible than the Alpha (B.1.1.7) variant, which is already more transmissible than the virus’ original strain.
The CDPHE press release further notes, “Experts stress that getting vaccinated can provide significant protection against illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. Getting vaccinated also protects others around you from getting COVID-19. Current data suggests that it reduces the spread of infection, leading to fewer opportunities for new variants to develop and spread.”
As of Wednesday, SJBPH reported that 46 percent of Archuleta County’s total population had completed a vaccine series, while 49 percent had received at least one dose.
That equates to 52 percent of the county’s eligible population (those 12 and older) having completed their vaccine series and 56 percent having received at least one dose.
“Anyone who is not two weeks past the last dose of their vaccination series is not considered fully vaccinated and should continue to wear a mask in public indoor spaces, wash their hands frequently, practice physical distancing, and limit social gatherings with people outside their households,” the CDPHE release states. “Anyone who is unvaccinated and is exposed to a person with COVID-19 or symptoms of COVID-19 should quarantine.”
As of Wednesday, SJBPH listed 1,012 total cases of confirmed COVID-19 among Archuleta County residents since late March 2020.
Archuleta County was at 1 percent positivity and had a seven-day cumulative incidence rate 78.60 cases per 100,000 people -— both figures the same as the week prior.
SJBPH continues to have an advisory, which was issued mid-May, in place. That advisory can be found at: https://sjbpublichealth.org/advisories-and-orders/.
The advisory, Devine previously suggested, is to protect the unvaccinated, including those who cannot be vaccinated.
In addition to local providers continuing to offer vaccines, multiple vaccine clinics are on the calendar that will offer vaccine incentives while supplies last.
A pair of clinics today, June 17, and next Thursday, June 24, will offer both the two-shot Pfizer vaccine to those 12 and older, and the one-shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine to those 18 and older.
The Jogan Health Mobile Unit will be set up at Pagosa Springs High School, 800 S. 8th St., from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day.
On June 19, a mobile unit will be at the TARA Community Center, located at 333 Milton Lane in Arboles, from 9 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. offering the same vaccines.
On June 22 and 24, the mobile unit will be set up at the Ruby M. Sisson Memorial Library, located at 811 San Juan Street (the corner of U.S. 160 and South 8th Street), from 3 to 6 p.m. offering the same vaccines.
Walk-ins are welcome at all of the clinics, though appointments are preferred.
Minors must have a signed parental consent form, which can be completed online when registering or at the clinic.
For more information on the vaccines, area vaccine providers or area vaccine clinics (including making an appointment), visit: https://sjbpublichealth.org/covid-19-vaccine/.
The COVID vaccine is available to all residents ages 12 and older. Youth ages 12 to 17 are only eligible for the Pfizer vaccine. Minors must have a signed parental consent form, which can be completed online when registering or at the clinic.
For more information about vaccine types, safety and eligibility, call (877) 268-2926. To speak to SJBPH call handlers, call (970) 247-5702.
Devine indicated a pair of vaccine incentives — the Vaxx for Scratch and Pagosa Brewing Company — are continuing locally while supplies last.
Under the Vaxx for Scratch promotion, “Any resident age 18 or older who receives COVID vaccination at a SJBPH clinic in Archuleta County will be offered a $10 Scratch ticket while supplies last. The Scratch tickets have a top prize of up to $500,000,” a SJBPH press release outlines.
Additionally, tokens for 20 percent off a taster flight or two-for-one root beers at Pagosa Brewing Company are available while supplies last.
In addition to local incentives, the state is also continuing its weekly Colorado Comeback Cash $1 million drawings, with Colorado residents who are 18 and older and have received at least one vaccine dose automatically entered to win.
Two winners have been selected, with more winners set to be announced on June 18, June 25 and July 7. Coloradans must be vaccinated by June 30 to qualify to win on July 7.
Younger Coloradans ages 12 to 17 are eligible for the Colorado Comeback Cash Scholarship drawing.
Under that program, five eligible Coloradans are being randomly selected to win a $50,000 scholarship each week for five weeks. Drawings for the Comeback Cash Scholarship will occur on Mondays and the remaining winners will be announced on June 18, June 25, July 2 and July 9.