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Coronavirus spikes in Southwest Colorado, but vaccines reduce severity

Montezuma and La Plata counties have high vaccination rate

The number of COVID-19 cases has spiked in Southwest Colorado, but the latest Omicron subvariants have less severe symptoms because of vaccine efficacy, health officials said.

Montezuma County reported 95 new cases between July 1 and July 15, and La Plata County saw 260 new cases in the same time period, according to data from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment.

The rates roughly match the period from June 14 to June 27, when Montezuma County reported 97 new cases, and La Plata County, 248 new cases.

The number of new cases is actually much higher, said Marc Meyer, director of infection control for Southwest Health System, because home test results are underreported.

He said recent COVID testing results done SHS show a positivity rate of 39%.

Based on the two-week cumulative incident rate, Montezuma and La Plata counties have reached the “severe risk” category of Level Red – Level 5 of six levels.

The Omicron strain sublineages BA. 4 and BA. 5 are the most dominant of the current COVID-19 cases.

The strain is more infectious, but symptoms – a scratchy throat, headache and tiredness – have been less severe, Meyer said.

Reduced symptoms are the result an effective vaccine and strong local vaccination rate, Meyer said.

“The vaccines and boosters are making a huge impact. It does not necessarily prevent infection, but by producing antibodies, it slows it down, and recovery is better,” he said.

As of Friday, Southwest Memorial Hospital had no COVID-19 patients, he said.

In Montezuma County, 74.6% of residents ages 5 and above have received a vaccination. In La Plata county 81.9% have received the vaccination.

Free vaccinations and booster shots are available in Cortez by making an appointment with Montezuma County Public Health at 970-565-3056 or at Southwest Memorial Hospital at 970-564-2280.

Last week, CDPHE began limiting its outbreak data to priority settings and populations such as residential care facilities, correctional settings, child care and overnight camps and other high-risk settings.

In Montezuma County, two active outbreak areas were reported by CDPHE.

  • The Madison House assisted-living facility reported June 22 that eight residents and three staff had tested positive.
  • The Valley Inn skilled nursing home reported June 24 that five staff had tested positive.

In La Plata County, four current active outbreaks were reported.

  • Colvig Summer Camps reported June 8 that 16 staff and two attendees had tested positive.
  • Cottonwood Inn Rehab and Extended Care Center reported June 3 that 11 staff had tested positive.
  • Espero Supportive Housing reported June 7 that four residents and one staff had tested positive.
  • Junction Creek Health and Rehabilitation Center reported June 10 that three residents and nine staff had tested positive.