Respiratory virus cases, hospitalizations increasing

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By Randi Pierce | Staff Writer

Colorado is experiencing a respiratory virus “cyclone,” according to San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH)  Communications Director Megan Graham.

Colorado is seeing rises in cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza and COVID-19.

“RSV, in particular, is kind of spiking at an alarming rate,” Graham said. 

She added the state is currently experiencing more RSV-related hospitalizations than it ever has.

“You combine that with a spike in flu cases as well as a spike in COVID cases and we’re just really in a respiratory virus … cyclone at this point,” she said.

On Nov. 11, Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order amending and extending the current COVID-19 disaster declaration to include RSV, influenza and other respiratory illnesses. 

According to the state, “The disaster declaration allows agencies to continue to access state and federal funding for recovery efforts, to rapidly respond to changes in the public health environment, and to support the healthcare system to remain appropriately staffed and prepared to respond to public health. The amendment allows the Colorado Department of Insurance (DOI) to issue emergency rules to reduce administrative burdens on transfers, including pre-authorization requirements, to ensure Coloradans receive necessary healthcare.”

For more information on RSV, see related article on page 21 of The PREVIEW.

Regional hospitalizations

Graham reported that, as of late Wednesday morning, Archuleta County and La Plata County together had four ICU beds and 22 medical-surgical beds available.

Graham noted that RSV is not a reportable disease like the flu and COVID, making local RSV hospitalizations unknown, but that, as of Wednesday, Mercy Regional Medical Center had five patients hospitalized for COVID and Pagosa Springs Medical Center had one.

SJBPH’s flu dashboard shows no hospitalizations for flu this season.

COVID-19

Following a brief drop back to Community Level low, Archuleta County was again in Community Level medium on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Community Levels for COVID-19 as of Nov. 10.

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. Hospital data is determined regionally.

As of Nov. 10, the CDC reports 14.6 new COVID-19 admissions per 100,000 population, 5.1 percent of staffed inpatient beds in use by patients with confirmed COVID-19 and a new case rate of 128.31 per 100,000 people.

As of Wednesday, SJBPH’s COVID-19 data dashboard showed a one-week incidence rate of 187 new cases per 100,000 population, a one-week positivity rate of 31 percent and 22 deaths among cases.

According to a Nov. 1 press release, SJBPH “recommends residents receive one omicron booster shot, which is now widely available. Residents are eligible for the omicron booster if they are age 5 and older and it has been at least 2 months since their last COVID-19 vaccine. The State of Colorado has created a tool to find out how many vaccine doses you or a family member needs for the highest level of protection. Vaccines are the safest, most effective way to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death caused by COVID-19.”

According to the state, 62 percent of Archuleta County’s population has received a primary vaccine series, 36.2 percent have received one or more booster doses and 16.3 percent have received two or more booster doses.

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.

Graham also pointed out the state’s vaccine bus will be at Walmart from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Nov. 20.

The press release further explains, “Residents are urged to take precautions to avoid infection, particularly among individuals at high risk for severe illness. While in Community Level Medium, CDC recommends that if you are at high risk, wear a high-quality mask or respirator (e.g., N95) when indoors in public. If you have household or social contact with someone at high risk, consider testing to detect infection before spending time with them, and consider wearing a high-quality mask when indoors with them.”

Flu

As of mid-day Wednesday, SJBPH’s flu dashboard showed 12 positives between Oct. 29 and Nov. 12, with seven of those listed under Nov. 12.

The dashboard shows a positivity rate of 5.5 percent on Nov. 12, up from 3.7 percent on Nov. 5.

The majority of cases are listed as being flu A.

The dashboard notes that positivity data is taken from seven facilities in Archuleta and La Plata counties who report the number of tests administered and the positive results.

Statewide, Graham noted, flu is “coming on strong,” with modeling predicting flu numbers will continue to rise in the short-term.

An Oct. 31 press release notes, “SJBPH strongly encourages residents to receive their annual flu immunization.”

Infection prevention
measures 

Graham also reiterated one of the most important respiratory illness control measures that should be taken in addition to the standard precautions — vaccinations, hand hygiene and cleaning high-touch surfaces often.

“I think the big one really is stay home if you’re sick,” Graham said, adding later that also applies to keeping kids home when they are sick.

She also pointed out that what might be a minor illness for one person could “turn into something really significant and dangerous for somebody else.”

At-home tests and
masks available 

At-home tests and KN95 masks are available for free at the SJBPH offices in both Durango and Pagosa Springs.

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