COVID-19: County hits low risk level, CDC updates guidance

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By Randi Pierce | Staff Writer

Archuleta County dropped to level low on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Community Levels on Aug. 11.

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 Aug. 11, the CDC reports 9.7 new COVID admissions per 100,000 people and 4.8 percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients.

Hospital data is determined regionally.

The CDC lists Archuleta County as having 99.79 new cases per 100,000 population over the past seven days.

As of Wednesday, San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) listed Archuleta County as having a one-week rate of 104.7 new cases per 100,000 population and a one-week positivity rate of 14 percent.

Archuleta County is listed as having 17 deaths among COVID cases.

Wastewater monitoring data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) also show that the COVID levels in local wastewater have again increased after dropping on Aug. 1.

An Aug. 1 sample taken from the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District was listed as having 25,300 copies of SARS-COV-2 (the virus that causes COVID) per liter, though sampling from Aug. 4 contained 238,000 copies per liter.

PAWSD began submitting wastewater samples to the state for the wastewater monitoring program in late March, with the lowest amount detected being zero in mid-April and the highest being 525,000 copies per liter on July 11.

On Tuesday, SJBPH Executive Director Liane Jollon informed the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners that cases are slowly trending down in Colorado and are trending down across the country, with hospitalization trends being flat.

She also noted that the BA.5 Omicron subvariant now represents about 87 percent of cases nationally and 90 percent of cases in the region.

CDC amends guidance on isolation, quarantine

On Aug. 11, the CDC announced “streamlined” COVID-19 guidance “to help people better understand their risk, how to protect themselves and others, what actions to take if exposed to COVID-19, and what actions to take if they are sick or test positive for the virus.”

The updated guidelines can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/isolation.html and https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/if-you-were-exposed.html.

A press release on the updated guidance notes, “COVID-19 continues to circulate globally, however, with so many tools available to us for reducing COVID-19 severity, there is significantly less risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death compared to earlier in the pandemic.”

“We’re in a stronger place today as a nation, with more tools — like vaccination, boosters, and treatments — to protect ourselves, and our communities, from severe illness from COVID-19,” said Greta Massetti, Ph.D., MPH, MMWR author, via the press release. “We also have a better understanding of how to protect people from being exposed to the virus, like wearing high-quality masks, testing, and improved ventilation. This guidance acknowledges that the pandemic is not over, but also helps us move to a point where COVID-19 no longer severely disrupts our daily lives.”

The CDC continues to promote COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters “to protect people against serious illness, hospitalization, and death.”

The CDC updated its guidance for people who are not up to date on COVID-19 vaccines on what to do if exposed to someone with COVID-19. 

The guidance, the CDC press release notes, is consistent with the existing guidance for people who are up to date on COVID-19 vaccines, recommending that instead of quarantining if you were exposed to COVID-19, you wear a high-quality mask for 10 days and get tested on day five.

The update, the press release indicates, reiterates that you should isolate from others when you have COVID-19 or if you are sick and suspect that you have COVID-19 but do not yet have test results.

The CDC’s full isolation recommendations include that if you test positive for COVID-19, you stay home for at least five days and isolate from others in your home. 

“You are likely most infectious during these first 5 days. Wear a high-quality mask when you must be around others at home and in public,” the press release states.

It further explains that, if after five days you are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of medication and your symptoms are improving, or you never had symptoms, you may end isolation after day five.

“Regardless of when you end isolation, avoid being around people who are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19 until at least day 11,” it states, adding, “You should wear a high-quality mask through day 10.”

The CDC also recommends that if you had moderate illness (if you experienced shortness of breath or had difficulty breathing) or severe illness (you were hospitalized) due to COVID-19 or you have a weakened immune system, you need to isolate through day 10.

The updated guidance also includes recommendations for ending isolation those who had severe illness or who have a weakened immune system, what to do if you end isolation and symptoms worsen or restart, and more.

The updated guidelines can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/isolation.html and https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/if-you-were-exposed.html.

SJBPH amends public health advisory

In response to the CDC’s updated guidance, SJBPH announced Wednesday that it amended its local public health advisory

“SJBPH amended its public health advisory with significant changes to align with the CDC’s updated language which loosened protocols regarding quarantine, connecting recommendations for face coverings based on CDC’s community level, updated recommendations around serial testing and other guidance,” a SJBPH press release states.

The updated advisory can be found at https://sjbpublichealth.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/SJBPH-Mitigation-Advisory-8.16.22-2.pdf.

SJPBH’s public health advisory also directs residents and businesses to the CDC’s guidelines on prevention strategies based on CDC’s community levels, and recommends that businesses, public institutions and special events follow CDC recommendations for prevention based on Community Levels.

The public health advisory further recommends that schools and child care follow the CDC’s and the CDPHE’s updated guidance on prevention and mitigation in these settings. 

“While COVID-19 cases have leveled or declined, the virus is still circulating in the community and can cause severe illness especially for individuals of advanced age and people with certain medical conditions,” the press release states. “SJBPH urges individuals to follow CDC guidance if they are sick or exposed. In all COVID-19 Community Levels, individuals are encouraged to stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccines, including boosters, and test if experiencing symptoms.”

For more information on COVID-19 vaccines, eligibility and local providers, visit https://sjbpublichealth.org/covid-19-vaccine/. More information about COVID-19 vaccines, as well as assistance scheduling an appointment, is available at covid19.colorado.gov/vaccine. 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 (covid.gov/tests).

More information on testing can be found at: https://sjbpublichealth.org/testing/. 

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: https://sjbpublichealth.org/covid-treatments/ or covid19.colorado.gov/treatments.

randi@pagosasun.com