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The COVID-19 pandemic is not over. Last week more than 13,000 people across the U.S. died from COVID. But as the nation begins to exhale from the latest surge in COVID-19 cases across several states, Colorado cases of the Delta variant continue to occur at concerningly high levels. With a significant number of Coloradans eligible for the vaccine still unvaccinated, those who can’t be, children under age 12, and those with a compromised immune system (from cancer, lupus, diabetes, and heart disease for instance) and are at heightened risk.

As of Oct.11, there were 24 new cases of the Delta variant in Chaffee County; 6o new cases in the past 14 days for a positivity rate that is again over four percent. In the past week, more than a third of the cases have been in people under age 40.

In cases over the past month, more than 95 percent are symptomatic, and nearly 70 percent of the new cases are on the southern end of the county. Nearly one in four new cases are “community spread,” meaning the person doesn’t know anyone who is sick and doesn’t know how they got infected.

The county has experienced a total of 1698 COVID-19 cases and 22 deaths among residents since the start of the pandemic and 32 deaths of those who have died with COVID, but not solely from it; a rate of more than 10 percent of the county population.

Chaffee County Director of Public Health Andrea Carlstrom, last week calculated our rate of breakthrough cases and determined it is a concerning 31 percent, making the booster shots for those over age 65 and with compromised immune systems extremely important to the county’s health.

According to the Colorado Dept. of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) COVID color code “Chaffee County is orange or yellow, depending upon the day,” noted Carlstrom. “By Centers for Disease Control (CDC) standards, we are in the high concern category as far as transmission is concerned. Now the shift is protecting the vaccinated from the unvaccinated.”

With Pfizer submitting a vaccine for kids 5-11 to the FDA for approval, Carlstrom is urging parents of children ages 12 and up to get their families vaccinated. She is encouraging the community to follow that lead.

“Kids model and learn from us. Especially in these challenging times – resiliency, optimism, grace, patience, empathy, and kindness …that’s what’s gotten my amazing team through these past months,” she began. “We feed off each other’s positivity. But it seems like local public health can’t get a break. New cases are pouring in – out of county and with local ties. Businesses and employees are being disrupted, closures are being done throughout the county, and still, people won’t listen.

She noted two new deaths in the past week due to COVID. “Both were unvaccinated — both could have been prevented.” She added “My investigation team is … stretched thin. I am telling you, positive cases — whether vaccinated or not — are not living their full lives. We’ve seen a couple of infant toddler cases this past week too.”

The county is slowly adding to its vaccination rates; this past week it is approaching 70 percent fully vaccinated. But with the virulent Delta variant, now the goal has risen to 80 percent vaccinated.

CCPH is giving Pfizer booster shots this week — today and Tues. OCt. 19, by appointment only at the County Fairgrounds. For a full list of Pfizer booster shot locations follow this link: By early November CCPH hopes to be able to distribute the Moderna boosters as soon as they are approved by the FDA.

Carlstrom noted that the county is prioritizing those who have been in close contact with infected people, and higher risk people and their focus is vaccinations. Those who refuse to get vaccinated yet come to the CCPH wanting to be tested from trips to other countries she suggests should go elsewhere for testing.”

While 10 days ago Colorado was fourth or fifth from the bottom in incidence, this past week it moved to 13th highest in COVID case growth. The state stands at 7.5 percent positivity.

“This week’s report for the state is definitely less optimistic,” added Carlstrom. COVID positivity is up. The percent of hospitalizations is up. Some 77 percent of those hospitalized in the state are unvaccinated – in Larimer and Weld it’s 93 percent unvaccinated patients and they are exceeding their bed capacity.”

She added, “In El Paso Jefferson and Douglas counties, pediatric rates have skyrocketed … Jeffco had to go to court with three schools in their district that were refusing to follow their mask mandate.

“One in 66 are projected to be infected in the central mountains – Lake, Teller, Park, El Paso, and Chaffee. That’s a lot,” said Carlstrom. “It means one in every 66 people is infectious and across this (larger) region only 52 percent are vaccinated. The San Luis Valley is not looking good… We’ve been warned NOT to lift any measures right now, until after we know the December holiday impact.”

It should be pointed out that those vaccinated are:

  • 3.3 times less likely to get COVID
  • 8.3 times less likely to be hospitalized.
  • 3.6 times less likely to die of COV