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The summer of 2021 was supposed to feel normal, moving past the COVID-19 pandemic with hope, optimism, and promise.  Then the Delta variant came along and overturned any notion of normalcy.  COVID-19 incidence climbed before our eyes, the healthcare system surged as workforce shortages increased, and the policies and protocols that we had imagined abandoning, such as mask-wearing and quarantine, continued to get in the way of the “summer of freedom” that we had all looked forward to.

Fast forward to the summer of 2022.  It is hard to conceive that we have been living in a pandemic for what will be three consecutive summers.  The newest variant, Omicron, has played out as we had hoped, and even though it is more transmissible than previous variants, it is presenting a mild to moderate illness for most people.  We are seeing increased incidence in our county and state, although morbidity and mortality continues to be low.

Chaffee County Public Health Director Andrea Carlstrom and Chaffee Board of Health Chair Greg Felt. Courtesy photo.

At the beginning of the year, the public health system started moving toward a more routine disease control mindset, acknowledging that COVID-19 is here to stay.  Our society continues to walk on a tightrope, striving to live our “normal” lives with in-person meetings and events, travel, and activities, many of which were put on hold while vaccine and therapeutics were developed, while also second-guessing whether every runny nose, sore throat, or fever is COVID-19 or not.

The current modeling by the Colorado School of Public Health projects that there will be an increase in hospitalizations somewhere in mid-June, although the surge will likely not be as alarming as we have seen in past chapters of the pandemic.  While we should enjoy this summer to its fullest, we should also be thinking about what fall and winter might have in store for us.

Now is not the time to panic but rather a time to prepare.

We must strengthen our healthcare and public health systems, while also mentally bracing for an uncertain future with COVID-19.  Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 dashboard indicates that Chaffee County (and most of Colorado) is currently in a low-risk community level, just a few local hospitalizations could move us to a higher risk level.

When this occurs, Chaffee County Public Health, along with the Board of Health and in coordination with local healthcare stakeholders, will review local detection data to determine what measures, if any, are taken to slow the spread of the virus.  However, at this stage of the pandemic, we all must manage our own personal risk and make calculated decisions based on the likelihood of severe illness, vaccination, and booster status, whether isolation or quarantine would interrupt plans and commitments, and many other factors.

Staying up to date with vaccinations, maintaining good ventilation, building strong immune systems, and staying home when sick are all ways to protect ourselves from many illnesses, let alone COVID-19.  The COVID-19 vaccine is still effective in protecting someone from becoming seriously ill, being hospitalized, or dying, and we will surely learn more about vaccine and infection protection in the months to come.

Soon, there will be a vaccine available for most of our youngest people, and we will be as accommodating as possible to ensure that every family has access to it if they are interested.  If someone chooses to wear a mask, then we should support their choice.  There are ample therapeutics available, so if you do test positive, antiviral medication and monoclonal antibody treatment should be sought out if you are at an elevated risk for serious illness.  Isolation instructions must continue to be followed upon symptom onset or a positive test result.

At this moment in time, we have secured what we can to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on our lives while also acknowledging that people are going to live their lives based on what risk they are willing to take.  It continues to be an honor to serve the people of Chaffee County, and we should all be proud of the sacrifices and tough decisions we have made, the challenges we have faced head-on, and the resiliency that has gotten us to this phase of normalization.

While life might not feel the same as it did prior to the pandemic, we hope that you can find grace, understanding, empathy, and strength as we navigate whatever the future holds.


Greg Felt, Chairman of the Chaffee County Board of County Commissioners and Board of Health

Andrea Carlstrom, Director of Chaffee County Public Health and COVID-19 Incident Commander