Over the course of April, two cases of COVID-19 – one the B.1.1.7 variant of the virus – have been identified in San Juan County, Colorado.
“We had a surge of cases right after the new year, and we’ve actually only had like three cases this entire rest of the winter and spring,” said DeAnne Gallegos, public information officer with the San Juan County Office of Emergency Management, on Saturday in an interview with The Durango Herald. “One was at the beginning of the month, and one was this very last week.”
The presence of the variant, also known as the British or U.K. variant, highlights the importance of getting vaccinated against the virus, she said.
“Even if you are strong, healthy and have no fear of even if you did get COVID, it’s really about creating that line of defense for your family, your neighbors and your community, honestly,” she said. “What’s happening now, like any infectious disease, is it’s mutating. The B.1.1.7 is a little more contagious and makes people a little more sick, and so we’re seeing it step up a notch.”
Gallegos said San Juan County Public Health’s goal is to get a minimum of 80% of the county’s residents fully vaccinated. The county tallies and releases its statistics on Tuesdays, and as of last Tuesday, just over 50% of the community had been fully vaccinated, and there has been little hesitancy.
“That’s ahead of the majority of communities and the national averages,” she said. “That really lends a tale of when you live in a small high-alpine mountain community, people want to be a part of the solution. We want to create that line of defense before tourism season kicks off.”
The vaccinations performed by SJCPH have used the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, which the county has be reassured by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment protects against variants of the virus, Gallegos said.
On Friday, CDPHE also alerted Colorado providers that they can resume using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Use of the vaccine had been temporarily suspended after six people in the United States got severe blood clots after receiving the vaccine. The Food and Drug Administration and CDC announced Friday that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh potential risks.