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As cases of COVID-19 continue to surge in Chaffee County, the situation is more concerning than many realize. According to the county’s COVID Data Dashboard, until now, the month of the pandemic with the highest case count was December 2020 with 258 cases. As of late afternoon on November 17, 2021, the county had already recorded 293 cases of this highly infectious virus and we are barely halfway through the month, with a major holiday next week.

As Chaffee Commissioner Greg Felt (who is also chair of our Chaffee Board of Health) commented, “This is not an apples-to-apples comparison either, because we know there are many people utilizing at-home tests who are not reporting their results. We also have many mild cases, particularly among the vaccinated, that are treated as a regular cold and are never tested for COVID.”

In response to the recent ongoing surge of COVID-19 cases in Chaffee County as well as preparing for the future, Chaffee County Public Health (CCPH) has been working internally and with external partners to continue to build comprehensive and sustainable systems to meet the needs of the public. Updates include:

Testing:

Chaffee County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) will continue testing on Sundays at the EMS station at 10364 County Road 120 in Salida. The next Sunday testing clinic is on November 21 from 3:00 p.m. to 5 :00 p.m. The link to the scheduler can be found here: https://forms.gle/QaAM1BcraLvimE5x8.

Moving forward, Sunday testing clinics will be from 12:00 noon to 2:00 p.m. throughout the end of the year. The link to those events will be shared the previous week. These clinics are for symptomatic and close contacts only.

CCPH has also secured a free mobile testing clinic on Saturdays at the Buena Vista Community Center at 715 East Main Street from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. through the end of the year and on Monday, December 20 and 27 from 9:oo a.m. to 12:00 noon and on Tuesday, December 21 and 28 from 12:00 noon to 4:00 p.m. in Salida at the Touber Building (C Street Entrance) at 448 East 1st St. to ensure continued testing options throughout the holidays.

The most recent testing options in the county can be found here:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1fx0PglE43qVhKPDlkhNq_BuCu_2Z5N9WL2rVyTII74I/edit?usp=sharing

Vaccinations:

In addition to regular COVID-19 vaccination clinics at CCPH, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s mobile vaccination bus will also be in Chaffee County, providing first, second, and booster doses of all types of COVID-19 vaccine for ages 5 and up as well as flu shots. Details through the end of the year are below:

11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Friday, November 19 in Buena Vista at Railroad and Main St.

11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturday, November 20 in Salida at Sackett and G

11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturday, December 4 in Buena Vista at Railroad and Main St.

11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Sunday, December 5 in Salida at Riverside Park

11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturday, December 17 in Buena Vista at Railroad and Main St.

11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Sunday, December 18 in Salida at Riverside Park

There continues to be ample opportunities to get vaccinated in Chaffee County. The most recent vaccination provider options can be found here:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1L4_uUTab7QMDWzsCSExz_fc3cxLl8upZNi4gvrtFilA/edit?usp=sharing

Anyone 18+ who has received their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna, 6 months or more ago or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson, 2 months or more ago is eligible and should seek out a booster shot. CCPH strongly recommends that anyone eligible gets their booster shot right away.

Contact Tracing and Case Investigation/Data Dashboard:

As cases hit record highs in the county and to prepare for future surges, CCPH has begun streamlining its protocols, emphasizing personal accountability and responsibility regarding what to do if someone tests positive or is a close contact with someone testing positive. Everyone tested for COVID-19 will be given the following instructions at the time of the test:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1cuDdrVBiZ_6VoCqqwOPmEOIh1HFDPRW6ClLKk0yIdus/edit?usp=sharing

Positive cases are asked to let CCPH know if they are a breakthrough case, because not all cases will be directly contacted by CCPH. Pediatric cases and high-risk outbreak situations will be prioritized. If a child tests positive, it is imperative that the case is reported to the appropriate school nurse right away.

Anyone who tests positive with an at-home COVID-19 test is asked to self-report their positive by visiting https://covidbinax.colorado.gov. Individuals need to create an account then enter the information of the positive test. CCPH will be automatically notified of this positive test after it is reported through this system.

Due to the rising incidence of COVID-19 in the county, many employers and businesses are being impacted. CCPH is available for consultation when an employer or business is unsure of what to do next or is experiencing a predicted or actual outbreak. CCPH is relying on employers to reach out if they know of positive cases within their staff due to home testing, etc. It is possible that an assigned staff member may be required to report directly to and receive consultation from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment if there are 5 or more cases at a business.

Because of a more streamlined approach to contact tracing and case investigation and the addition of home testing which is becoming more and more popular, the case data that has been collected in the past might not be as readily available for the local data dashboard. In the next few days, the dashboard will be updated to reflect a more right-sized approach.

Chaffee County COVID-19 Website:

The Chaffee County COVID-19 website, https://www.chaffeecounty.org/Public-Health-Coronavirus, has been updated to make it easier to find what the public is looking for. All of the above-mentioned resources can be found on the website. The public is strongly encouraged to seek out the information they need before contacting CCPH. CCPH will continue to push out weekly situational awareness reports and press releases to local media as changes and updates arise.

Death Trends:

Jeff Graf, Chaffee County Coroner, reports that “Since January 1, 2021, there have been 16 COVID-19 related deaths in Chaffee County. Since October 1, 2021, there have been eight COVID-19 related deaths. Of the eight deaths since October 1, seven were unvaccinated and one was vaccinated. In 2020, Chaffee County had 21 COVID-19 related deaths. With a month and a half left in the year, we are close to the same number of deaths we had the first year of the pandemic.

“These numbers are a troubling sign to me,” says Chaffee Public Health Director Andrea Carlstrom, who has repeatedly reminded the community that the way out of this pandemic is to get vaccinated. “My heart goes out to each of these families, many of whom I know personally. I have seen the hurt and devastation these families are going through. I have seen the toll. These deaths take a toll on myself and my staff along with all the health care professionals that deal with this pandemic every day. We now, more than ever, need to vigilant against this terrible disease.”

Holiday Schedule:

CCPH will close its offices and pause the majority of its programming from Saturday, December 18, 2021 through Monday, January 3, 2022 to observe the holidays and to provide the department with some respite after almost two years of continuous COVID-19 response.

Testing and vaccination opportunities will continue through the above-mentioned events, and while contact tracing and case investigation will take place utilizing the new streamlined approach, it will be up to personal accountability and responsibility for the public to follow their isolation and quarantine instructions. Emergencies will be covered by on-call staff.

“After almost two years of intense and non-stop COVID-19 response, CCPH has earned a break. We have done everything possible, along with our healthcare partners, to provide the public with timely and accurate information, clear and credible resources, and the tools in its toolbelt to navigate living life in the COVID-19 pandemic,” said CArlstrom. “At this stage of the pandemic, it is really up to individuals, households, and workplaces to do the right thing to mitigate the spread of the virus, keep our healthcare systems from surging, and prevent unnecessary deaths due to COVID-19. We wish everyone a safe and healthy holiday season and hopefully one that feels more normal than last year with vaccinations readily available and clearly effective in protecting against serious illness and hospitalizations.”