COVID-19: Delta variant continues to spread

    1286

    By Randi Pierce
    Staff Writer

    On Tuesday, just under a week after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) labeled the COVID-19 Delta variant (B.1.617.2) as a variant of concern, San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) reported that the variant was identified in La Plata County.

    “Identification of the case confirms what SJBPH has suspected and anticipated, that the Delta variant, which has already been confirmed in other Western Slope communities, is present and circulating in Southwest Colorado,” a SJBPH press release on the topic states.

    SJBPH has been operating under the assumption the Delta variant has been present for some time and may be the dominant strain already, according to Brian Devine, San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) environmental director and deputy incident commander for the SJBPH’s COVID-19 response.

    Devine noted that, for the individual in whom the Delta variant was confirmed, the gap between the sample completion and the sequencing was 10 days.

    “We assume it’s been here for some time,” he said, noting that other samples from that same time and more recent are still out for testing.

    The Western Slope, he noted, is one of two places in the country (the other being Kansas City, Mo.) where the Delta variant is becoming the dominant strain, if it is not already the dominant strain, and is really taking off, causing elevated case counts.

    “The confirmed presence of the Delta variant in Southwest Colorado is concerning. Protection against this severe variant should be the strongest motivation yet for unvaccinated residents to get the vaccine without delay. The Delta variant is shown to be more severe for residents both young and old. Even if you previously had COVID-19, you still need to get the vaccine and it’s especially important with the Delta variant that you finish your vaccine series,” said Liane Jollon, SJBPH executive director, via the press release.

    According to SJBPH, the Delta variant was first detected in India and is widely regarded by public health experts to be one of the most transmissible and severe variants of COVID-19 to date. 

    “SJBPH emphasizes that vaccination, especially completion of a vaccine series, is highly effective at protecting against the Delta variant. Unvaccinated residents are at higher risk of falling ill with the Delta variant of COVID-19 and are urged to get the vaccine as soon as possible. According to State records, more than 98% of confirmed COVID-19 cases have occurred in the unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated population since January 2021,” the press release states.

    Devine noted that the evidence coming out of the United Kingdom shows the Pfizer vaccine, an mRNA vaccine, is still highly effective against the Delta variant, meaning it is likely the Moderna vaccine, which uses the same technology, is also.

    Research on the effectiveness of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is ongoing, he indicated.

    Outbreak identified at Pagosa Springs Walmart

    On Wednesday, SJBPH confirmed an outbreak of COVID-19 at the Pagosa Springs Walmart. 

     Devine noted that the outbreak definition recently changed to be two cases in a long-term care setting or five cases in any other setting (up from two cases).

    Five cases have been identified at the store, he noted, and additional cases are being investigated.

    One case has been identified in a vaccinated individual, two among unvaccinated individuals and others are still under investigation, he added.

    “Fully vaccinated individuals who may have been exposed to this outbreak are at low risk,” he said.

    Devine also called attention to SJBPH’s public health advisory that remains in place.

    That advisory recommends wearing masks in public indoor spaces unless everyone present is fully vaccinated, he noted.

    “That is exactly for this reason,” he said, “because with more-transmissible variants in indoor spaces, even fully vaccinated people may be exposed more frequently, and so that extra layer of protection helps get the prevalence of disease down in the community.”

    He added that advisory is in place because there is a higher burden of disease locally than in the rest of the country.

    “Now, with the presence of Delta and with us really on the leading edge of the Delta variant spread through the United States, we intend to maintain that public health advisory,” he said, citing the higher transmissibility of the Delta variant and what has occurred in the region with other variants.

    SJBPH’s advisory can be found at: https://sjbpublichealth.org/advisories-and-orders/.

     The state’s outbreak information is available at: https://covid19.colorado.gov/covid19-outbreak-data.

    Local COVID numbers

    As of Wednesday, SJBPH listed 1,022 total cases of confirmed COVID-19 among Archuleta County residents since late March 2020.

    The agency showed Archuleta County was at 2 percent positivity Wednesday and had a seven-day cumulative incidence rate 57.10 cases per 100,000 people -— down from 78.60 the previous two weeks.

    Half of the county’s total population had received at least one dose of a vaccine, as of Wednesday, with 47 percent of the population having completed a vaccine series.

    Of the eligible population (those 12 and older), 56 percent has received at least one dose, while 53 percent have completed a vaccine series.

    Vaccine clinics,
    promotions continue

    In addition to local providers continuing to offer vaccines, multiple vaccine clinics offering both the Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson are again on the calendar that will offer vaccine incentives while supplies last.

    The two-shot Pfizer vaccine is available 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. on June 24.

    Also on June 24, the mobile unit will be set up at the Ruby M. Sisson Memorial Library, located at 811 San Juan St. (the corner of U.S. 160 and South 8th Street), from 3 to 7 p.m.

    On June 27, the mobile unit will be at the Pagosa vendors’ market, located on the east end of town, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

    On June 30, the unit will be at Pagosa Brewing and Grill, located at 118 No. Pagosa Blvd., from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

    On July 2, the mobile unit will be back at the vendors’ market from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

    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/.

    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.

    Under the Vaxx for Scratch promotion available in Archuleta County, “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.

    In addition to local incentives, the state is also continuing its weekly Colorado Comeback Cash $1 million drawings and Comeback Cash Scholarship drawings.

    Testing available locally

    “With the Delta variant present in our community, testing is still critical if you have symptoms, believe you’ve been exposed, work in a high-contact job, or if you have been gathering with people outside your household. Additional testing allows public health officials to sequence more samples and identify if COVID-19 variants are more widespread. Vaccinated individuals should get tested if they have symptoms, especially after a known exposure,” the press release states. 

    Testing continues to be available through multiple providers, and SJBPH provides free COVID-19 testing in partnership with COVIDCheck Colorado from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday behind the Pagosa Springs Medical Center building at 95 S Pagosa Blvd.

    For more information on COVID-19 testing and more, visit: https://sjbpublichealth.org.

    randi@pagosasun.com