Lake County was able to move down to Level Yellow on the COVID Dial Framework Thursday, echoing the trend across Colorado that is seeing fewer positive cases.
The community is also preparing for Phase 1B.3 vaccinations as of Friday, March 5. The new group includes those age 60 and older, grocery and agricultural workers, as well as those age 16 to 59 with two or more high-risk factors.
In its most recent report, the Lake County Public Health Agency (LCPHA) showed 28 positive tests over the course of two weeks, with 207 tests taken. That equates to a positivity rate of 13.5 percent while Colorado’s seven-day average was 3.42 percent as of March 3.
“Thank goodness Lake County is finally out of the dark color,” said Lisa Zwerdlinger, M.D., Public Health Officer for LCPHA, in her weekly COVID-19 update.
She said that Lake County and the rest of Colorado are by no means out of the woods in terms of COVID-19 infection, but said cases in the county are no longer surging after a superspreader event in the community. “I love flat curves,” she said.
Meanwhile, the community is preparing for the next wave of vaccinations, which targets those 60 and older, grocery and agricultural workers and those ages 16-59 with two or more of the following conditions: cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, diabetes, Down Syndrome, specific heart conditions, obesity, pregnancy, sickle cell disease, solid organ transplant, those requiring direct care in their homes and those who have disabilities that prevent them from wearing protective masks.
As vaccine supplies reach Lake County, St. Vincent Health and Rocky Mountain Family Practice are calling their 60-plus patients to schedule vaccination appointments. Anyone 60 or older can call to join a waitlist at St. Vincent Health (SVH), 719-486-0230; and Rocky Mountain Family Practice (RMFP), 719-486-0500. Safeway in Leadville is scheduling vaccinations through their website at www.Safeway.com/CovidClinic. Be advised if there is high traffic on the website you may need to retry. Additionally, SVH and RMFP are requesting that people 16 and older with two high-risk conditions fill out a form confirming their conditions. Once patients have completed and returned the form, attesting to a minimum of two high-risk conditions, the medical offices will call them to schedule a vaccination.
Visit the Lake County COVID-19 info page on Facebook for the most up-to-date information on virus statistics and vaccinations: https://www.facebook.com/COVID19LakeCountyCO/
In addition, LCPHA is hosting a COVID-19 information town hall at 6:00 p.m., Wednesday, March 10. Log in via Zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/3779086984 Meeting ID: 377 908 6984, Passcode: 80461.
Phase 1B.4 is anticipated to open at the end of March. This includes people age 50-plus, instructors in higher education and frontline workers: food/restaurant services, manufacturing, and the U.S. Postal Service.
Zwerdlinger said the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine will likely be available soon in Lake County. The single-dose vaccine has raised some questions about its 72-percent effectiveness in preventing COVID-19, compared to the 95 percent from the Modern and Pfizer vaccines, which require two shots a month apart.
However, according to data submitted to the Food and Drug Administration, the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is 86 percent effective at preventing severe illness and death from COVID-19, and has shown 82 percent efficacy against severe illness from the South African strain of the virus.
“Most years with the flu vaccine we’re happy when it’s 50-percent efficacy,” Zwerdlinger said. “Please don’t feel as though the J&J vaccine is less of a vaccine; in many ways it is more of a vaccine because of its ease of administration.”
The vaccine is being hailed as a potential game changer in remote areas because in addition to being a single dose, it doesn’t have the same storage restrictions as the Modern and Pfizer versions. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine employs adenoviruses – which cause the common cold – whereas the Modern and Pfizer vaccines use messenger RNA.
Health officials are urging people to take what vaccine is available to them as soon as possible, and say that having a third vaccine in use will substantially reduce the time it takes to obtain herd immunity. Shortening the timeline reduces the chances of the virus developing more mutations, they note.