Colorado health officials say the state is in its fourth wave of COVID-19 infections, and La Plata and Archuleta counties could follow the same trajectory.
Statewide, coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have risen, mostly among people younger than 50 who are less likely to have been vaccinated, according to news reports. State officials say more-contagious coronavirus variants are a contributing factor.
San Juan Basin Public Health has observed similar factors and trends, which could contribute to a local fourth wave, said Brian Devine, SJBPH deputy incident commander for COVID-19 response.
“We know that variants are present and circulating locally, and these more transmissible (and likely more severe) strains of COVID-19 are driving fourth waves in other places experiencing sharp spikes right now,” Devine said in an email to The Durango Herald.
Cases in La Plata and Archuleta counties have been steadily increasing since the end of March. In the last two weeks, La Plata County has seen 249 new cases, according to SJBPH. The entire month of March had 369 cases. The county’s cumulative case count was 3,556 as of Monday with 37 deaths among cases.
Archuleta had 53 cases over the last two weeks compared with 98 cases total in March. Its cumulative case count was 799 cases as of Monday with one death among cases.
“Our one-week case incidence rates in both counties are trending toward the highest levels we’ve observed since the beginning of January,” he said. “This is concerning, and it’s up to all of us to commit to wearing masks and getting vaccinated to prevent a surge like the one we experienced in the fall of last year.”
Not all positive COVID-19 specimens are tested for variants. However, SJBPH has reported two types of variants spreading in the two counties, one from the United Kingdom and one from California.
Both coronavirus variants are dubbed “variants of concern” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They are easier to spread, and the U.K. variant can cause more severe cases of COVID-19 (which means more hospitalizations).
“Those who aren’t vaccinated need to be very careful,” Devine said.
Unvaccinated people should continue practicing public health precautions, such as wearing a mask, social distancing and avoiding crowded indoor places, he said.
Partially vaccinated people should continue following all public health precautions. It is possible to contract COVID-19 between vaccine doses or while waiting to reach immunity after dose.
People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second Pfizer or Moderna dose or two weeks after a single Johnson & Johnson dose.
People who are partially vaccinated should get tested and quarantine/isolate if they have symptoms or were potentially exposed to the virus.
Fully vaccinated People should follow the CDC guidance for vaccinated individuals, which includes wearing a face mask when in public.
Those individuals can spend time unmasked with other fully vaccinated people even in indoor settings, according to the CDC. With unvaccinated people, the CDC recommends that fully vaccinated individuals be unmasked only with members of one other household. Those people should be low-risk for contracting a severe case of COVID-19.
“SJBPH’s message to the general public is the same: Protect yourself and the community by wearing a properly fitted mask in public, get vaccinated as soon as possible, avoid high exposure social gatherings, and maintain social distancing,” Devine said. “Get tested if you are exposed, develop symptoms or work in a high-contact job.”