1 in 4 Routt County residents have received 1st dose of vaccine; 18% fully vaccinated
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — One in four Routt County residents has gotten their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of Tuesday, and about 18% have been fully vaccinated, outpacing vaccination rates in Colorado and the nation as a whole.
After getting 1,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine last week, the county vaccinated close to 800 people over the weekend with the one-shot vaccine.
“I think it was well pulled off, and we were all tired by Sunday afternoon, but our work continues,” Routt County Public Health Director Roberta Smith said. “That is not the end all be all; we still have more vaccines to give in our community.”
Vaccines are now available at eight different area providers, including pharmacies at City Market, Safeway, Walgreens and Walmart that are getting their vaccines directly from the federal government.
Cases of COVID-19 in Routt County have plateaued in recent weeks, but Routt County epidemiologist Nicole Harty said cases stabilized at a level about 70% higher than the rest of the state as a whole.
When looking at Northwest Colorado, cases are declining, but other counties, not Routt, are driving that.
“We’re not moving in the wrong direction, but we are not moving,” Harty said. “We’re just stable across the board.”
Outbreaks are still driving spread of the virus, with about 15% of all cases in the past two weeks coming from just two outbreaks. There have been several outbreaks related to school sporting events as well as some in lodging and restaurants. Another outbreak at a social gathering at someone’s home has led to about three-quarters of the attendees testing positive for the virus.
“This really exemplifies the risks that still remain of gathering with multiple people from multiple households indoors without masks for extended periods of time,” Harty said.
Overall, things are looking better, and they have for several weeks, with the most recent week having 50 new cases, the same as the week before and just three cases more than the 47 reported two weeks ago.
Between people who have been infected with the virus already and those who have gotten the vaccine, Routt County Public Health Medical Officer Dr. Brian Harrington estimated about a third of Routt County residents have some degree of immunity to COVID-19.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines earlier this week allowing people who have been fully vaccinated not to quarantine if exposed to a case of the virus, giving them permission to interact with other people who have been fully vaccinated without masks or social distancing and allowing vaccinated people to interact with people from one household who are not vaccinated but at low risk for the virus.
“If there is a group of vaccinated people that want to get together and play bridge, I think that now is the time for that,” Harrington said.
Reaching 100% vaccination rates in the county will never happen, he said, as some people cannot be vaccinated because of other health conditions, some will choose not to get the vaccine and the shots have not yet been approved for those ages 16 and younger.
Harrington added that vaccine trials are underway for children, and he suspects that by fall, approval for the vaccine could be extended to them. About 20% of the Routt County population is younger than 18, according to the State Demographer’s Office.
By the end of this week, almost all of the teachers who want a vaccine in Routt County will have gotten their second dose, according to Brooke Maxwell, public health nurse for the county.
While other counties may not be following the state’s vaccination phases, Routt County is, and people need to be either 60 or older, have two or more high risk health conditions or be a worker in grocery or agricultural settings, Maxwell said.
Some of the extra vaccines the county had from last week will be used for a clinic at South Routt Medical Center on Thursday, and Lyon’s Drug is also having a clinic with about 120 second doses and 180 first doses of the vaccine this weekend.
The next phase in the state’s plan is called 1B.4 and should open up around March 21. This phase includes restaurant workers, essential workers in manufacturing, public transportation workers, faith leaders, public health and human services workers, those 50 and older and people with one high-risk health condition.
Public health has been working with employers to collect names of employees in this group, and the Steamboat Springs Chamber has gathered names of people working in restaurants.
The goal of state health officials is to get to a point where providers get a set amount of vaccine each week, but shipments are still inconsistent, Smith said.
“They are not there yet,” Smith said, referring to an increase in vaccine supply from the federal government.
Johnson & Johnson vaccines will likely not be seen in communities for several more weeks because of production issues. Smith emphasized people should not favor a particular brand of the vaccine, instead getting what they can get.
“If you have the opportunity to get the vaccine, get the vaccine that is offered to you and what is being presented at that clinic,” Smith said.
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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