Omicron variant of COVID-19 spreading at unprecedented levels in La Plata and Archuleta counties

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Chandler Griffin | San Juan Basin Public Health

SJBPH strongly urges public to isolate when infected or symptomatic and quarantine when exposed, urgently seek vaccination and booster dose, and mask in public indoor spaces

San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) is currently reporting more positive cases and transmission of COVID-19 than at any time during the nearly two-year pandemic. SJBPH attributes the local surge in cases to the highly transmissible Omicron variant. Questions remain about Omicron’s severity, and the impact on local COVID-19 hospitalizations will become clearer in the coming days and weeks. To preserve already strained health care capacity and resources, the public is strongly urged to seek vaccination and a booster dose as soon as eligible, mask in businesses and public indoor spaces, isolate when ill, and quarantine when exposed. 

As of yesterday, both La Plata and Archuleta counties were reporting record high levels of COVID-19 transmission over the past week. The seven-day case incidence rate in La Plata County was reported at 2,097 cases per 100,000 residents, and in Archuleta County the rate was 1,167 cases per 100,000 residents. SJBPH has received 580 positive test results in the past 72 hours. Of the molecular tests collected and reported to SJBPH over the past seven days, 27 percent came back positive for COVID-19 in La Plata County and 29 percent were reported as positive in Archuleta County. More information is available on SJBPH’s COVID-19 data dashboard.

In SJBPH’s jurisdiction, approximately 1 in 50 tests reported to SJBPH over the past week were positive for COVID-19. This figure supports the Colorado School of Public Health’s recent estimation that between 1 in 5 and 1 in 10 individuals statewide (and in our area) are currently infectious with COVID-19. SJBPH emphasizes there is a high probability you may come into contact with someone in public who is infectious with COVID-19.

Due to the high volume of cases, SJBPH contact tracers no longer have capacity to reach every positive case via phone call. SJBPH is implementing a prioritization plan that allows contact tracers to call high-priority cases. SJBPH continues to send text messages each day to all reported positive cases with guidance on how to isolate. Text messages are also sent each day to close contacts of positive cases with quarantine guidance, although SJBPH is unable to identify every exposure during the unprecedented surge currently occurring in the community. Information about isolation and quarantine is available on the SJBPH website. Community members are also encouraged to call SJBPH with any questions regarding quarantine and isolation (970-247-5702). 

“Our region is currently experiencing an unprecedented surge due to the highly transmissible Omicron variant and we understand this is causing challenges for community members, employers and schools across the region. It’s very important right now that you stay home if you are sick and follow isolation and quarantine guidance for positive cases and exposures. If you are positive or exposed and don’t know what to do, please call SJBPH or visit our website for more info. We are fortunate to have vaccines and boosters widely available during this spike in cases which will help prevent hospitalizations and limit the severity of illness if you are to be infected. Please get your booster dose right away,” said Liane Jollon, SJBPH executive director. 

Community testing sites remain open and are free to the general public. Testing sites are experiencing high volume at this time, and the community is strongly urged to make an appointment and show up on time. More information about hours and how to make an appointment is available on the SJBPH website.

The COVID-19 vaccine is currently available to all community members ages five and up. Residents under the age of 18 are only eligible for the Pfizer vaccine at this time. Last week, the CDC and FDA released updates to booster eligibility for adults and minors. All community members ages 12 and up may receive a booster five months after completing an initial series of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. For adults who received the Johnson and Johnson single dose vaccine, the timeline for booster eligibility is two months. Minors are only eligible for the Pfizer booster.

Receiving a booster is shown to drastically increase protection from severe illness, and clinics with ample supply of all three vaccine types are widely available in both La Plata and Archuleta counties. All SJBPH and Jogan Health clinics can offer first, second and booster doses for those who are eligible. The full schedule of vaccine clinics and providers is available online with dates and times across both counties.

local Public Health Advisory remains in effect and is posted on the SJBPH website. For COVID-19 data, testing locations and more information about vaccines please visit the SJBPH website.