COVID-19 patient dies at MRH in Craig as hospitalizations near late-fall levels locally

‘It isn’t gone, by any means,’ doctor says

The Memorial Hospital at Craig
Cuyler Meade / Craig Press

After months seemingly in the clear, the virus that ravaged the country — and which continues to wreak havoc in some corners of the globe — proved it’s not done yet in Moffat County.

A COVID-19 patient died Tuesday at Memorial Regional Health in the Emergency Department, according to a release from Jennifer Riley, vice president and chief operating officer of MRH. Though the release points out the official cause of death will be determined by the Moffat County Coroner, this COVID-19-positive death is the first recorded in Moffat County since early January.

“We are deeply sorry for the friends and family members who lost a loved one yesterday,” said Andy Daniels, CEO of MRH, in the release. “Our thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time.”

Eight individuals were admitted with COVID-19 to the hospital this past week, up from three the week before, the release said.

Riley said in an interview that number nearly equals the number of patients the hospital would see in their COVID-19 ward on a typical day during the late-fall, early-winter height of the pandemic locally.

“When we were full, we had between eight and 10 people admitted at a time,” Riley said. “The COVID unit was full, patients were doubled up. We were at our maximum.”

The numbers have local medical experts worried.

“I am very concerned about this worsening trend for our community,” said Dr. Matthew Grzegozewski, Medical Director for MRH Emergency Department and Craig Rapid Care, in the release. “There is no cure for this virus. Only prevention. It is true, for some it can be a mild illness. But it is also ruthless, and there is no way to tell who it will pick. We are still watching so many otherwise healthy people requiring hospitalization, developing permanent complications, and yes, dying.

“It isn’t gone, by any means.”

The release notes the Moffat County’s percentage of fully vaccinated residents is “well below” that in the state, with only 30% of the County’s total population having received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared to 55% in Colorado at large.

Riley said a string of recent large-group activities in town, like graduations and the Grand Old West Days festivities over Memorial Day weekend, have very likely contributed to this surge.

“We believer this is largely part of the gatherings associated with those two big weekends,” Riley said by phone. “It was right in the heat of it.”

Grzegozewski in the release offered an impassioned plea for residents of the county to get vaccinated.

“We are asking you, not for any reason other than your welfare and protection: please consider getting a vaccine if you haven’t already,” the doctor said in the release. “We are so thankful to all of those who have gotten their COVID vaccine and have made the commitment to protect themselves, their families and our community. You trust us with your care, and the care of your family when you are hurt or injured. Please trust us on this too.

“This vaccine is safe and effective. There is no other motive for it other than your health and protection, and that of our community.”

Moffat County’s Public Health Medical Officer shared the same message another way.

“Moffat County has had a recent surge of COVID cases,” wrote Allan Reishus. “The county now has the dubious distinction of being the worst in Colorado. A man’s death from COVID, the first in many months, is a tragic and poignant reminder that the disease is with us. The hospital COVID unit has had two to four very ill patients constantly for the past few weeks. While we are all tired of the same old message, it remains true that the vaccine is our way out of the pandemic. Avoding crowds, especially indoors, remains good avice.

“If a person has any COVID symptoms, it is advisable to get tested and stay home until a negative test is assured. Let’s be careful and enjoy our brief summer.”

MRH offers both Moderna and Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccines, the release stated. There is no cost to get the vaccine, and insurance is not required. To set up an appointment for a COVID vaccine, call 970-826-2400.

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