While COVID-19 cases have increased locally, hospitalizations haven’t followed | SteamboatToday.com

While COVID-19 cases have increased locally, hospitalizations haven’t followed

Cases of COVID-19 in Routt County have been slowly ticking back up again in the last month, but that increase has not come with increased hospitalizations, according to county public health data.

There were just 14 cases over the two weeks preceding April 24, but that has increased ten times in the last month, with the most recent data reporting 139 cases in the two weeks preceding June 7.

“It’s happening statewide as well as nationwide,” said Public Health Director Roberta Smith. “But we have not seen the hospitalizations and, in this phase of the pandemic that we are in, … hospitalizations and deaths is really more of an indicator to look at these days than individual cases.”

There haven’t been any hospitalizations locally in the most recent two weeks of data. On Monday, June 13, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported 270 across the state were hospitalized with COVID-19.

Lauren Bryan, infection preventionist with UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center, said she credits avoiding hospitalizations locally to providers being consistent about getting patients COVID treatments before the case becomes severe.

“Hospitalizations usually don’t happen until day seven or day 10 after symptom onset,” Bryan said. “Having providers in this town who are really proactive in getting people who are at high risk before they’re at the hospital doors is huge.”

Anyone who is considered high risk for COVID-19, either because of age or preexisiting conditions, should contact their provider about receiving a treatment if they test positive for the virus, Bryan said. If patients are younger, or not immunocompromised, Bryan still recommended calling a provider if experiencing significant symptoms.

“If it’s somebody who is asymptomatic and low risk, then not necessarily,” Bryan said. “These therapeutics are incredibly effective, even against the variant that keeps mutating.”

The current dominant variant in Colorado is the BA.2.12 rendition of the omicron variant, one of five omicron offshoots that state health officials track. Other versions of the variant have been detected in Steamboat wastewater. Bryan said the increase in cases Colorado is currently experiencing is expected to peak around the end of June.

With a higher case load locally — likely an undercount as most home tests are not being reported — Bryan said wearing a good fitting, quality mask when at crowded, indoor spaces like the grocery store is a good idea.

“If you’re higher risk, you’ve got underlying health conditions and you’re in a situation, putting on a mask is probably beneficial to you,” Smith said.

Smith said the best way to protect from severe disease is, and long has been, to get vaccinated and boosted.

For people over 50 years old or with a compromised immune system, that would include four total shots — two from the initial vaccine series and two booster doses. People under the age of 50 and older than 5 are eligible for one booster dose after the initial two-shot regimen.

Matt Johnson, owner and pharmacist at Lyon’s Corner Drug and Soda Fountain, said he is still giving between 10 and 15 vaccine doses each day, many to people seeking a booster.

Colorado’s mobile vaccine bus will be in Steamboat at the Stockbridge Transit Center on Tuesday, June 14, and Wednesday, June 15 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It will return to the Walmart parking lot in Steamboat Springs on June 24.

Free COVID-19 testing with Mako Medical will also continue through at least the end of the month in the parking lot of the Routt County Justice Center at 1955 Shield Drive, Smith said. This testing may continue beyond June, but Smith said she was still waiting for a decision from state officials.

The long awaited approval for vaccines for those between 6 months and 5 years old could come as soon as next week, as the Food and Drug Administration has released data showing both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines appear to be safe and effective in recent weeks, according to the Associated Press.

Smith said she didn’t anticipate having a large community vaccination event for this age group, as has been done when previous groups became eligible for the shots.

“Having that done with your pediatrician is the best place to do that,” Smith said, about getting a shot for these younger children. “At that age there are many other vaccines that kids need to get so it’s also a good part of an overall wellness check.”

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