COVID-19: BA.5 subvariant increasing, Archuleta County remains in medium risk level


By Randi Pierce | Staff Writer

Public health officials are continuing to urge caution with the BA.5 Omicron subvariant of COVID-19 now reported to be the dominant strain across the country.

“It seems the BA.5 subvariant is kind of coming on strong,” said Megan Graham, San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) communications director and COVID-19 public information officer, adding, “It seems as though BA.5 is kind of resisting immunity, whether that be from vaccination or from previous infection.”

The silver lining, she indicated, is that the strain does not seem to be producing severe illness by and large, with officials not seeing a huge rise in hospitalizations.

BA.5, she noted, as been detected in the region.

Archuleta County remains in medium risk level

Archuleta County remained in level medium on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Community Levels Wednesday, with La Plata County sitting in level high.

The CDC’s Community Levels are updated each Thursday, with the CDC website explaining the agency looks at the combination of three metrics — new COVID-19 admissions per 100,000 population in the past seven days, the percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients and total new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the past seven days — to determine the COVID-19 community level.

As of July 7, the CDC reports 18.3 new COVID admissions per 100,000 people and 5.3 percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients.

Hospital data is determined regionally.

The CDC lists Archuleta County as having 163.95 new cases per 100,000 population over the past seven days.

As of Monday, SJBPH listed Archuleta County as having a one-week rate of 172.1 new cases per 100,000 population and a one-week positivity rate of 15 percent.

SJBPH notes in a July 8 press release that increased precautions are recommended “to slow the spread of the virus, prevent severe illness and hospitalizations, and protect essential services and health care.”

In La Plata County, masking is advised for all public indoor spaces and on public transportation, per the CDC and SJBPH’s Public Health Advisory, the press release notes.

It notes that, in Archuleta County, those at high risk for severe illness should talk to their health care provider about taking additional precautions such as masking. Mask wearing is also encouraged on public transportation.

“In both counties, individuals should stay home when sick—this means following CDC isolation and quarantine guidance if symptomatic, testing positive, or exposed to someone with COVID-19,” the press release states. “The CDC advises mask wearing until at least day 10 for individuals coming out of a five-day isolation period. For both Community Levels Medium and High, individuals are encouraged to stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccines, including boosters, and test if experiencing symptoms.”

SJBPH notes that one-quarter of the counties in Colorado are currently in level high, with about half of Colorado counties in medium and the remaining quarter in low.

“Spread of the virus continues to be elevated across the state and locally,” the press release explains. “For data collected June 30, the State of Colorado’s COVID-19 wastewater monitoring showed the highest level of virus present in the Durango area since data collection began in late January of this year.”

At that point, wastewater in the Durango area was listed as having 799,000 copies of the SARS-COV-2 virus per liter. On July 7, that figure was 614,000.

On July 7, Archuleta County was listed as having 167,000 copies per liter, up from 51,300 on June 27, but down from 369,000 on June 13.

“Vaccines are the safest, most effective way to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death caused by COVID-19 and its variants,” the press release notes.

For more on the vaccines, eligibility and local providers, visit More information about COVID-19 vaccines, as well as assistance scheduling an appointment, is available at The public can also call SJBPH at (970) 247-5702 or Colorado’s Vaccine Hotline at (877) 268-2926 to get help finding a vaccine.

At-home tests and
masks available 

At-home tests and KN95 masks are available free at the SJBPH offices in both Durango and Pagosa Springs, or tests can be ordered directly from the federal government (

More information on testing can be found at: 

Treatments available for high-risk individuals

COVID-19 treatments for people who currently have mild to moderate symptoms and are not in the hospital for COVID-19, but who are at high risk of getting very sick, continue to be available.

For more information on those treatment options or the state’s telehealth program, visit: or