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(May 27, 2022) – After a record spike in COVID-19 cases throughout the county early in the year, residents have experienced a mild respite from high incidence rates and rapid spread due to immunity from infection and vaccination.
However, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), now that hundreds of county residents are more than 90 days out from their initial infection during the Omicron surge, natural immunity has likely decreased significantly. San Miguel County has seen COVID cases among residents roughly double in the last week, from 6 to 13 active local cases. Since the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants were detected in county wastewater testing, measured levels the COVID virus has also slowly crept upward. These trends indicate that the Omicron subvariants are likely spreading quickly, following country-wide spread. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) noted in a news conference that case counts and hospitalizations across the state, while still relatively low, are increasing steadily due to transmission of Omicron subvariants. The CDC is estimating that 40% of cases in Colorado can be attributed to the omicron BA.2.12.1 subvariant which is estimated to be 25% more transmissible than the original omicron strain. Additionally, data indicates that the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, could be even more transmissible and more evasive of natural and vaccinated immunity than previous subvariants. “For many of us, time has run out for reliance on natural immunity,” said Contact Tracing Supervisor Hannah Max. “With the busy summer season kicking off this weekend and the observed increase in local cases and wastewater indicators, it’s a great time to assess risk with your family and physician to make personal health decisions accordingly. We know that testing frequently before or after potential exposures can help to quickly identify infection to decrease the risk of continued transmission.”While projections do not indicate a significant surge like the Omicron wave observed this past winter, they do imply that at-risk individuals should consider taking additional precautions in the coming weeks. Also, tracking with historic surges, the state healthcare system could experience some stress as treatment and testing demand, hospitalizations, and worker absenteeism due to illness increase.Public Health encourages residents to stock their homes with free at-home tests through the federal at-home testing program (www.covid.gov/tests), which opened a third round of ordering through the US Postal Service (USPS) on Monday, May 16. Additionally, residents and visitors are encouraged to utilize free community testing through Public Health on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 to 11 am MDT. In June, SMCPH community testing will move to the Butcher Creek turnout at Telluride High School (bit.ly/smccovidtest).The CDPHE vaccine bus will return to administer all vaccine types in Carhenge this Saturday, May 28 from 10 am to 4 pm MDT. SMCPH will also continue to offer vaccine clinics with access to both Pfizer and Moderna doses every other Tuesday in Telluride with upcoming clinics on Tuesday, June 7 and Tuesday, June 21. Registration is available on the county COVID Webpage, bit.ly/smcvaccine for English and bit.ly/smcvacuna for Spanish. Walk-ins are also welcome without an appointment. Vaccines are completely free and do not require proof of identity.“We are in a much better place than we’ve ever been with more access to vaccines, treatments and rapid tests,” said Public Health Director Grace Franklin. “However, we cannot become complacent. When planning for upcoming activities or travel, consider who you’ll be interacting with, stay up to date on your vaccines, utilize masks, and test often to keep yourselves and your loved ones safe and healthy.”