COVID-19 cases in Routt County are rising again |

COVID-19 cases in Routt County are rising again

Cases of COVID-19 are increasing again in Routt County, and while there have been just four reported cases of the more infectious delta variant in the county, local health officials suspect this is an undercount.

Still, vaccines have proved effective against the variant, and cases are primarily impacting those who have not gotten their shot.

“These variants are taking advantage of our unvaccinated populations,” said Routt County Public Health director Roberta Smith. “That is really where we’re seeing disease and severe disease.”

There were 24 new cases of the virus in the most recent week, which, while far below numbers seen in the early months of this year, is more that triple the seven cases seen two weeks ago. The two-week case total of 31 is the highest since the end of May.

The increase in cases is not entirely unexpected, as it is now the peak of summer, and people are interacting much more than they have been for months. Epidemiologist Nicole Harty said many of the cases they are seeing are connected to travel, but there is still some community spread.

Vaccination rates in Routt County still rank in the top 10 in the state, with 60% of all residents in the county being fully vaccinated, but this varies across the county. Only about 34% of West Routt residents have been fully vaccinated. In South Routt, that number is 39%.

Steamboat Springs is much higher with 67% of people having completed the vaccine series, but even that varies in different parts of town.

“There are pockets even within Steamboat that have low vaccination, so it depends who you hang out with and who your community is, how ever you define community,” Harty said.

All three vaccines currently approved for emergency use have shown to be effective at significantly reducing severe disease from the delta variant. First found in India, the variant quickly became the dominant strain in Colorado and is now responsible for more than half of all COVID-19 cases across the nation, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We have a tool; COVID-19 is now a vaccine-preventable disease,” Smith said. “We are seeing places that are having to shut down again because they’ve got vulnerable populations.”

Smith and Harty said they anticipate there have been more delta variant cases in Routt County than the four the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has reported.

“I think it is worth saying that they are underreported, but I can’t quantify it any more than that,” Harty said.

Harty said this assertion is based on both how many variant cases there have been in neighboring counties — Moffat has 64, Garfield has 75 and Rio Blanco has 12 — as well as her knowing that not all of Routt County’s positive cases are being sequenced for variants.

The Western Slope is where most of Colorado’s delta variant cases have been, with about 43% of them coming from Mesa County, which includes Grand Junction.

About 12% of all the delta variant cases in Colorado are in the three counties directly to the west of Routt, where Eagle, Grand and Jackson counties combine for just four cases of the variant.

Smith stressed that even relatively healthy people need to get vaccinated to help protect vulnerable populations, especially children under 12 who cannot yet get the vaccine.

“That is what is going to help us in the fall, especially when we go back to school and see more people congregating indoors,” Smith said.

To be fully vaccinated before the start of school, students would need to start the vaccine series soon, as the Pfizer vaccine is the only shot currently approved. Because it is a two shot vaccine, it will take about six-weeks to realize the full immunity of the vaccine.

The Public Health Department has been pushing to get more people vaccinated, Smith said. The Colorado vaccine bus was as the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series last weekend and offered a free ticket to those who got their shot. Smith said they have also been doing vaccinations at the Main Street Steamboat Farmers Market.

“We’ve got a tool to prevent this and to stop the pandemic,” Smith said, referring to the vaccines. “We just need to use it.”

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