County health department discusses concerns ahead of flu season, potential COVID-19 uptick |

County health department discusses concerns ahead of flu season, potential COVID-19 uptick

Moffat schools discuss Public Health thoughts in special meeting with County Commission

Moffat County Public Health Nurse Becky Copeland administers a Moderna COVID-19 vaccination to a Moffat County resident during Public Health’s drive-thru vaccination clinic at the Moffat County Fairgrounds in this Craig Press file photo.
Craig Press file

As Moffat County heads toward the holiday season, public health officials are closely monitoring COVID-19 spikes that are likely to follow large holiday gatherings. On Monday, public health director Kari Ladrow met with the county commissioners and school district administrators to discuss recent COVID-19 data and where those numbers could stand within the next few weeks.

Moffat County is facing surges at similar times of the year as they did a year ago. Last year, holiday months were particularly difficult when it comes to COVID-19 cases. Surges in cases usually trigger a surge in hospitalizations, which also indicates a surge in deaths. This affects hospital capacity, a main concern for Ladrow.

“I think one of the important discussions is about hospital capacity, because last week, I think, was when they got to the nine hospitalized patients,” Ladrow said on Monday in a workshop with the county commissioners. “And so I think just being mindful of that hospital capacity as an ongoing conversation is important.”

Currently, Memorial Regional Hospital has the capacity to serve nine patients in its COVID-19 ward. When that number is exceeded, resources could be taken from other departments, or patients can even be turned away. In addition to hospital resources, Ladrow cited healthcare worker burn-out as a potential consequence of reaching hospital capacity.

In addition to COVID-19, Public Health nurse Becky Copeland said the public should be cautious of their health regarding probable upticks and outbreaks of the flu and RSV this winter. With other respiratory illnesses likely to cause issues to individuals’ health, there is a higher risk of having more severe cases of COVID-19.

Ladrow and Copeland encourage all community members to schedule appointments for flu shots in order to limit the risk of spread and of effects on the respiratory system.

“I know that (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment) is predicting a very bad flu and RSV season,” Copeland said. “So respiratory illness this year is predicted to be very significant, so I just think that that’s important. We’re going to be offering those pediatric doses of vaccine but then the flu shot is huge to be promoting for our students and our staff to be safe, as far as respiratory illness goes, just because we’re going to be hit hard.”

In Monday’s meeting, Ladrow recommended that Superintendent Scott Pankow and the school district support the county public health’s messaging toward the flu vaccine and any future FDA approvals of COVID-19 vaccination for children. With the large probability of Moffat County and the rest of the United States experiencing a “January spike” after the holidays, awareness of potential upticks and healthy behaviors will be important in keeping hospitalization numbers down, Ladrow said.

Right now, children under the age of 12 are not FDA approved to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, but children ages 5-11 can receive it under the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). For the flu vaccine, it is recommended that children over the age of six months receive a yearly flu shot, and flu shots are approved by the FDA.

Pankow said Dr. Elise Sullivan, a practicing doctor and a current school board member, has hosted Zoom meetings about vaccinations for staff.

“I think we’ve done a really good job at pushing out information and making sure things people are knowing about the clinics and the vaccine buses and all those things,” Pankow said. “I would encourage public health to host some more of those events, too.”

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