RBC COVID-19 cases spike as state vaccination plans change

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RBC | Both Meeker and Rangely are seeing spikes in positive COVID-19 cases, and an increase in the number of residents requiring hospitalization. As of Monday, six local residents, ranging in age from their 50s to 80s, were being treated at Pioneers Medical Center in Meeker.

81% of ICU beds in the Northwest region are currently in use. There have been no more than two new hospitalizations per day of Rio Blanco County residents in the past two weeks.

RBC Public Health Director Alice Harvey and Public Health Nurse Sarah Coker said the initial rise in positive cases may have been linked to the holidays, but most of the new cases added in the last two weeks are likely from widespread community transmission.

Meeker’s wrestling team, boys basketball team, and high school drama members have been quarantined following “likely exposures.” Official practice for both teams was scheduled to start Monday. As of press time there were seven confirmed cases in the Meeker School District and two in the Rangely School District.

There have been 368 total cases in the county. For the most current situation locally, visit https://rbc.us/606/COVID-19-Updates.

Testing

The backlog at the state lab that had people waiting up to 10 days to receive test results has been resolved. Test results are now returning within 24-48 hours. Public Health uses an antigen rapid test and backs it up with a PCR test that goes to the state.

“The rapid tests are not as accurate as we would like then to be,” Harvey said. The accuracy of the rapid tests is dependent on what stage of illness someone is at. Rapid tests are recommended for people experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. If you have no symptoms, but have been exposed to a known case, testing is advised between five to seven days after your last known contact or when you begin to develop symptoms.

Drive-thru testing is available at both public health sites from 10-11 a.m. Monday through Friday.

Vaccinations

After a promise from the federal government about a stockpile of available vaccines was found to be false, state governments scaled back community immunization plans in response to reduced vaccine allocation. Colorado was anticipating 210,000 doses last week, and only received 79,000.

When the state was expecting sufficient doses, it expanded the Tier 1B vaccination group to include teachers, grocery store workers, and other frontline workers who interact with the public. Within 24 hours of that expansion, revelations about the lack of a federal stockpile had state governments limiting planned vaccinations to people over 70 and those in Tier 1A.

As of Monday, the governor’s office directed agencies to use the vaccines they have on the shelf to get first doses “into arms” for remaining Tier 1A individuals (healthcare workers, first responders, and Coloradans over the age of 70), promising that the recommended booster doses will be available as needed.

RBC has had a better than average response to vaccinations, and has had the supplies necessary to meet the demand, only needing to reschedule vaccinations for a handful of individuals attending the clinics.

Going forward, momentum will be dependent on allocation from the federal government to the state, and from the state to local governments. Concerns that people from out of the area might come here to get vaccinated have not materialized. According to Harvey and her staff, they’ve not seen anyone from out of the area at vaccination clinics.

The Colorado Department of Public Health issued a press release earlier this week reiterating that the vaccine is to be provided free of charge, with “limited barriers to access,” including not requiring presentation of identification. Vaccine clinics will be held according to the “honor system” according to the CDPHE, and stating, “The state expects providers to eliminate requirements for official identification, and warns that requiring identification can result in loss of access to vaccines.”

Citizens can call the state’s CO-Help line at 303-389-1687 or 877-462-2911 with COVID-19 related questions or concerns.


By NIKI TURNER | niki@ht1885.com

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