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As of Thursday evening, the Centers for Disease Control updated its COVID-19 Community Level Dashboard and Chaffee County remains at Level Low. County leadership continues to meet monthly with Chaffee County Public Health (CCPH) to review the county’s COVID-19 status. In this reality, even fully-vaccinated people can become reinfected.

While most residents and visitors are going about as if COVID is in the past, the fact is that variations of the Omicron variant continue to circulate and even those who have received the latest booster shot have been known to become reinfected with a later variant.

COVID-19 vaccine Photo by Hakan-Nural for Unsplash.

“Trends are flat and we’re waiting for data from the 4th of July long weekend,” said Chaffee Public Health Director Andrea Carlstrom. She noted that “It’s the subvariants that are the infections now — BA.5 is about half of all cases nationwide, but it hasn’t been as prevalent here. That will change, we’ve had our first confirmations of BA.5 here.”

Chaffee Emergency Services Director Josh Hadley said his department had had five positives in the past couple of months, but “We isolate … we see lots of medical-related concerns and a little of the environmental influence. He commended the Chaffee County Search and Rescue team and added “it’s disheartening to hear we have so few partners on this in the community. There are challenges when we have to try to mitigate it within the community….

Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center has had only one COVID-related hospitalization in the past several days.

“I checked our state dashboard today and there has been a decline in transmission levels across the state,” Carlstrom added, although the state still stands at more than 12 percent positivity.

She cautioned the county leadership that “If future subvariants of Omicron continue, we should expect more transmission, more immune escape. No one wants to say this publically but it’s all pointing in that direction.”

Carlstrom added that the term “up-to-date on vaccinations” is now defined as receiving all the doses —  including the boosters — even for kids at the end of summer vacation before school.

Chaffee County Public Health has now opened its Salida offices for the COVID vaccine on Tuesdays, Thursdays and has added Fridays, allowing people to make appointments for all the doses. The county has also secured the state’s COVID vaccine bus, which has been roaming about in Buena Vista, Poncha Springs, and Salida.

She again reminded people that with this virus still mutating, it’s still wise to wear a face mask if you’re gong to be inside with large groups of people, adding that people should remember that if they test positive, to stay home.

“It pains me to see people who have tested positive out spreading the virus to their friends, family, peers, and the workforce,” she added.

The topic of the cases of monkeypox (now being referred to as MPV) came up and Carlstrom said that it’s gaining traction in the country, but there’s not enough attention being given to it nationally. The good thing is, that there is an effective vaccine.

“We have nine cases in Colorado and the state has already administered about 300 vaccinations on the Front Range. “We have submitted a small order for Chaffee and testing is available. The thing is, local public health agencies can’t test for this virus. But we’ve reached out to ask the state — what is your plan for testing?”