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Health & Science

San Juan Basin Public Health update, November 9, 2021

SJBPH clinic
Katheryn Maloney, SJBPH
/
Medical Reserve Corps volunteer giving a Covid booster shot at a recent SJBPH vaccine clinic at La Plata County Fairgrounds.

Hospital bed availability across Colorado is critically low as COVID cases continue to surge. Meanwhile, 5 to 11 year olds are now eligible to get a vaccine. Liane Jollon with San Juan Basin Public Health Department talks to KSUT’s Sarah Flower to give us the latest update.

Sarah Flower
News on COVID-19 is like a total yo-yo with the state of Colorado, and hospitals around the Four Corners looking at hospital capacity, crisis care services, and then also mixed in there, is the approval for 5 to 11 year olds to now get vaccinated. How are things holding up on your front and what is San Juan Basin Public Health's focus right now,

Liane Jollon 
I would like to start with acknowledging how confusing of a time this is and how we continue to have mixed messages and continue to have to communicate things that have uncertainty. And, that is really challenging for everyone who's trying to plan their next moves in their lives, and also for our public health agency and all public health individuals responding to this. So, there's wonderful news since we spoke last that 5 to 11 year olds were authorized to receive the Pfizer vaccine, it's a pediatric dose, it's given over two separate instances separated three weeks apart, just like the adult dose, but it is a different dose. We made it available here immediately in our local community. We have lots of providers, pediatricians, pharmacies, other outlets that have it available, and we've had hundreds and hundreds of families already partake in our local community. So this is really an opportunity for families to breathe a sigh of relief that they can protect their children and hopefully have less interruptions to schooling. We have lots of schools in southwest Colorado right now that have recently experienced closures, are about to experience closures because they cannot contain virus. There's other really good news out there about what may be happening next, monoclonal antibodies, which are an early intervention to keep people out of the hospital are becoming more widely available here in Colorado right now. And there's information coming about the future where there are new antivirals that are going through approval processes that are easier to administer than monoclonal antibodies. And those may become available in the next three to six months. Again, having more opportunities to treat people and get to a place with this infection, that it is not dominating our lives the way that it currently is. We also have to recognize that Colorado is one of about a half a dozen states that's experiencing a very significant surge. So right now across the state, we have about 1300 people in the hospital. All of these people are not going to make it out of the hospital. We will have more fatalities over the next couple of weeks and months due to COVID due to this winter surge. And this is a tough thing for people to face over their holidays. What we need to do as a state right now is engage in that layered protection. To combat the growth of infection we have which is dangerously close to overrunning our hospital capacity. The governor has activated the opportunity for crisis standards of care, which means that hospitals can, if needed, deliver care differently than people are accustomed to. And it also means people may not get care if they needed for COVID or for other conditions right now in Colorado one out of 50 Coloradans is currently infectious with COVID-19. And our positivity rate at our test sites is around 10%, meaning that we have not seen control of this surge yet. While in the big picture, there's good news coming in this pandemic. Colorado is one of the half a dozen states where we still have to be really, really careful.

Flower
I want to go back and unpack the crisis care services and the hospital bed availability throughout the state of Colorado. Latest reports are showing fewer than 100 ICU beds in the state, which greatly affects Coloradans ability to receive care whether that's around COVID-19 or another condition. Governor Polis has said that his northstar for making decisions around this pandemic will be based on our health care system. Liane, this is scary. Now, what is the plan to move forward through all this and make sure that every Coloradan receives quality care?

Jollon
Well, right now it is a layered approach. So regardless of your vaccine status, we ask that individuals mask up in public indoor spaces, and we really implore our partners, so our schools, our local governments, and businesses and workplaces to follow the advisory. The advisory indicates that we should have universal masking and do our best to maintain six foot distance. Take activities outside if we can and, and really recognize that when transmission is this high, it has the opportunity to potentially overrun hospital care, but it also means that virus will spread in vaccinated as well as unvaccinated individuals. Now vaccinated individuals, by and large are really well protected from severe illness. But, with high rates of transmission, we all really have to put our best foot forward because we don't want to run out of hospital space.

Flower
And now here we are, not even two weeks after Halloween and looking ahead in two weeks for Thanksgiving, a time for gathering. What's the message at this point?

Jollon
I think the message is unfortunately for Colorado, we're going into the holiday season with a high rate of transmission. I think there are lots of parts of the country where the evidence seems to imply that the Delta wave kind of came and went. And the transmission rate is a lot lower after your Delta wave is through. But unfortunately, Colorado's is just getting started. And we're in a really tough spot going into the holidays.

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