MRH: Delta Variant of COVID-19 surging in Moffat County
Medical Director: ‘We’re not at the finish line yet’
Craig’s primary health system again sounded the alarm Thursday regarding the resurgence of COVID-19, led by the virus’s Delta Variant, in a news release.
Numbers shared by Memorial Regional Health detail the startling rise of the mutation officially titled Variant B.1.617.2.
“The number of positive COVID cases in Moffat County continues to rise,” the release read. “The greatest concern with this increase is the percentage of these cases identified as the COVID-19 Delta Variant. The most current information provided by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) shows that of the specimens sequenced, the majority of them were (the Delta Variant).”
Memorial Regional Health, the release adds, is participating in a study by the CDPHE to identify strains of the virus including the Delta and other variants.
“The intent of this program is to identify possible COVID-19 variants in circulation and their burden of disease in the community.”
The data is clear: As the virus surges to its highest positivity rates since the deadly fall spike, the tip of the spear, peaking the week of June 6 at 83% of positive cases.
“The Delta Variant is more infectious,” said MRH medical director Dr. Matthew Grzegozewski by phone. “It’s easier to catch. As far as pathology, we haven’t noticed a significant difference, but we have noticed that the positivity rate, the number who test positive with this is increasing substantially the last couple months. It’s difficult to discern the reasons, but the more infectious virus could be one. More infections, more people get sick.”
MRH vice president of operations and Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Riley added that with the recent surge it’s been a longer gap between infection and hospitalization, as much as a week to 10 days, creating a longer period of time that an asymptomatic person can unknowingly infect others.
“We’re not at the finish line yet,” Grzegozewski said in the release. “Even with the last year of progress, if we don’t take the right steps and don’t get our community’s vaccination rate to at least 70%, the risk of the virus spreading will continue to be a problem. It will continue to mutate and change, putting all of us at risk. The longer this continues, the more dangerous this virus can get.”
Moffat County is currently sitting at 38% of the eligible community having received a first dose of the vaccine, per the CDPHE. That’s the 13th lowest rate in the state.
“The confluence of a more infectious virus, and the relaxation of behaviors that helped contain it — we’re having festivals, graduations — it’s a number of concerning factors at once,” Grzegozewski said. “Everybody is back to essentially acting like the virus doesn’t exist. It very much does.”
The concern for the local medical community is that this gets worse and worse as the barriers to viral spread are close to zero.
“We lag a bit, it takes a while to permeate,” Grzegozewski said. “When numbers reach a certain level, that’s when we see what we had back in the late fall, early spring. Our ICU being full, our transfer levels being high because we can’t care for our super-sick patients, and then you’re talking about transfer facilities closed because they’re swamped. We’re concerned.”
Vaccination appointments can be made for free and without need for insurance by calling MRH at 970-826-2400.
Additionally, the county is holding COVID-19 a vaccination clinic Monday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Moffat County Courthouse, 221 W. Victory Way, offering Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for free. Walk-ins are welcome. Another county clinic will be held Aug. 2 and one more Aug. 16.
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