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“It’s kind of weird to think back a couple of years ago,” Chaffee County Commissioner Greg Felt told the local roundtable that had assembled in 2020 to navigate COVID-19’s emerging landscape.

Back then, the group Zoomed twice weekly to talk, sometimes to just vent about things being, well, weird. Elected officials, school administrators and businesspeople met with Chaffee County Director of Public Health Andrea Carlstrom to dive into the latest in case numbers, color-coded response levels, limits on public gatherings and for levity perhaps, the toilet paper shortage. All this while much of the outside world, it seemed, was fleeing to Colorado’s mountain communities for socially distant escapes.

The group met last Thursday in what is now a monthly update session and talked about a recent local uptick in cases, reflecting the overall numbers in Colorado last week. But with vaccines and improved treatments in their corner, along with two years of watching the virus peak and wane, there was considerably less angst among the participants.

As of June 6, there were two hospitalizations and 23 emergency department visits at Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center over two weeks related to COVID. June 8 statistics show Chaffee County at a 343.3 two-week cumulative incidence rate.

1,010,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 since it began spreading across the planet in late winter of 2020. Chaffee County has logged 48 deaths and 4,898 reported cases. The current surge isn’t filling many hospital beds, but it’s a reminder that the virus is still here.

“Our incidence is considered pretty darned high,” Carlstrom said. She noted that the current “mini-surge” hasn’t bumped up hospital numbers, but that several cases reflected a second time around with COVID-19 infection. She cautioned that emerging variants of the virus are likely more transmissible and pose more “immune escape.”

While vaccinated people continue to see infections, statistics show they tend to see milder cases. Carlstrom noted that those who have received initial vaccines and boosters are three times less likely to be hospitalized than the unvaccinated, and 4.2 times less likely to die.

She said people age 50 and older, or those who are immunocompromised, should go ahead and get fully boosted.

Carlstrom also said that some people have been showing up at public test sites after they have tested positive at home. She said they need to isolate at home instead; adding that the practice is a poor use of resources and places public health staff at risk. The current protocol is to isolate for five days, followed by five days of precaution. If you have symptoms, isolate until tested.

The conversation swung around to the recent appearance of monkeypox and two presumptive cases in Colorado at the time.

Carlstrom said public risk for monkeypox is low, the fatality rate is under one percent, and that an effective vaccine exists.

Still, she noted the irony of monkeypox as COVID-19 lingers in new variants.

“You really can’t make this up,” she said.