COVID-19: Health department updates local public health advisory

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    By Randi Pierce
    Staff Writer

    San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) has revised its public health advisory related to COVID-19.

    SJBPH COVID-19 Public Information Officer/Communications Director Chandler Griffin indicated that the changes, which went into effect late Tuesday, highlight the importance of a layered strategy against COVID-19.

    “SJBPH advises all residents and visitors that the risk of contracting COVID-19 when participating in indoor activities with mixed households who are unvaccinated or have mixed or unknown vaccination status against COVID-19 remains high,” the advisory reads.

    The advisory also continues to urge residents to patronize indoor establishments and special events that adhere to face covering and physical distancing recommendations, and allows businesses and events that comply with the advisory’s recommendations to access signage to display.

    Other language in the advisory, Griffin explained, lets employers and employees know there are still requirements for employers to provide additional paid sick leave if employees contract COVID-19, and provides additional resources for employers.

    The document also covers face coverings, physical distancing and other mitigation measures, and more.

    To read the advisory, visit: https://sjbpublichealth.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/SJBPH-Third-Amended-Advisory-10.5.2021.pdf.

    It can also be found on the agency’s coronavirus Web page.

    Griffin noted that SJBPH has also put together a document with frequently asked questions that will be available on the agency’s website.

    Local numbers

    According to SJBPH, Archuleta County’s seven-day cumulative incidence rate was 135.7 cases per 100,000 people — down from 192.8 a week prior.

    According to the CDC, Colorado’s seven-day incidence rate was 202.8 Wednesday — up from 162.7 a week prior.

    The U.S.’s one-week rate is 204, down from 232.4 a week prior.

    As of Wednesday, SJBPH listed 1,385 total cases of confirmed COVID-19 among Archuleta County residents since late March 2020, up from 1,365 a week prior. 

    The agency showed Archuleta County was at 9 percent positivity Wednesday.

    There continues to be two active COVID-19 outbreaks in Archuleta County.

    An outbreak was confirmed at Pagosa Peak Open School on Sept. 8 with five confirmed cases — four students and one staff member.

    As of Sept. 29, that outbreak was six students and one staff member.

    On Sept. 15, an outbreak was identified at Pine Ridge Extended Care Center, with SJBPH reporting four confirmed cases among unvaccinated staff members.

    The first case was on Sept. 6. On Oct. 6, Griffin reported that outbreak includes six staff members.

    An outbreak is identified as five cases associated with a single facility in a 14-day period, or two cases in a 14-day period in congregate settings.

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

    Pfizer booster shots available to some

    Booster shots of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine are now available for individuals ages 65 and older, high-risk workers, people in institutional settings, and adults with underlying health conditions. 

    The booster shot can be administered at least six months after recipients complete the two-dose series of the Pfizer vaccine.

    The booster doses are currently only open to individuals who originally received the Pfizer vaccine.

    A press release from SJBPH lists several of the “underlying health conditions” for Pfizer booster eligibility:

    • Obesity.

    • Diabetes.

    • Chronic lung disease.

    • Significant heart disease.

    • Chronic kidney disease.

    • Cancer.

    • Other underlying health conditions.

    The press release further notes there are several other groups eligible for a Pfizer booster, including people in institutional settings or at high risk of occupational exposure to COVID-19:

    • Health care workers.

    • Teachers and day care staff.

    • Grocery workers.

    • People in long-term care facilities, homeless shelters, prisons or other congregate settings.

    • First responders.

    Moderately to severely immunocompromised people ages 12 and older continue to be eligible for a third dose of an mRNA vaccine. 

    For the immunocompromised, additional doses should be administered at least four weeks after the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, according to SJBPH.

    Immunocompromised individuals are advised to seek the same mRNA vaccine that they originally received. If the matching vaccine type is not available, immunocompromised individuals may receive the alternative mRNA vaccine.

    Moderately to severely immunocompromised includes individuals meeting one or more of the following conditions:

    • Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood.

    • Received an organ transplant and are taking immune-suppressing medications.

    • Received a stem-cell transplant within the last two years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system.

    • Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome).

    • Advanced or untreated HIV infection.

    • Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress the immune system.

     Immunocompromised individuals will be asked to self-attest for eligibility at the time of vaccination for the additional dose. If you are immunocompromised, consult with your primary care provider to discuss if an additional dose is recommended for you.

    How to get a booster dose

    “Individuals who are eligible for the Pfizer boosters are advised to seek out a vaccine clinic or provider at their earliest convenience,” the SJBPH press release states. 

    SJBPH clinics operated in partnership with Jogan Health Solutions will now administer booster shots at all scheduled clinics, as well as offering first and second doses of vaccine to those who have not completed their initial vaccine series. 

    The press release notes that SJBPH has set up a recurring clinic in Archuleta County, as well as one in La Plata County, to accommodate a higher volume of patients seeking a booster dose.

    The recurring Archuleta County clinic is being held at Pagosa Springs Middle School, located at 309 Lewis St., on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

    Appointments are recommended. 

    Residents can also access booster doses of Pfizer through other enrolled providers in the region. 

    “Individuals are encouraged to verify with the provider in advance that they have adequate supply of Pfizer vaccine and are able to administer the booster,” the press release notes.

    Additional information about the COVID-19 vaccine, booster shots, clinics and enrolled vaccine providers can be found on SJBPH’s website: https://sjbpublichealth.org/covid-19-vaccine/. 

    Federal agencies to
    consider vaccine for kids, Moderna booster

    Griffin reported that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is slated to meet Oct. 21 and 22, and is anticipated to consider Pfizer doses for children ages 5-11, as well as Moderna boosters for the same or similar population currently eligible for Pfizer booster.

    Griffin indicated authorization of both could come in the days following the committee’s meeting.

    Additional federal and state review is needed before the population eligible for boosters expands to include people who originally received Moderna or Johnson and Johnson vaccines, according to a SJBPH press release.

    randi@pagosasun.com