COVID update and end of universal masking near

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by Marissa Lorenz
Addressing the Grand County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), sitting as the Board of Health, Public Health Director Abbie Baker confirmed on Tuesday that there are 20 known variant cases of COVID-19 in Grand County and two known cases of re-infection, though she noted no breakthrough cases.

The confirmed “variants of concern,” according to Baker, include six cases of what is known as the California-Denmark variant, 12 cases of the UK variant, and two cases of the Brazil variant.

Using relatively new terms, Baker explained that “re-infection” indicates cases where individuals have been confirmed as having COVID-19 after previously having had the infection, and “breakthrough” indicate cases where individuals are confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 within two weeks of having received a full application of COVID-19 vaccination, meaning two doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The Director also noted that there was another potential death-by-COVID of a Grand County resident. She stated that the incident had been prematurely reported on the County’s COVID dashboard for a time, but that it was in fact still under investigation. For now, the County’s official count of individuals who have died from COVID-19 infection remains at two.

Baker indicated that 13,250 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered in Grand County, reminding that most individuals have so far been receiving one of the two 2-dose vaccines and that Public Health could not verify how many of those were given to county residents.

She then estimated that about 52 percent of eligible county residents had been fully vaccinated and that local herd immunity stood at around 56.8 percent, given the 4.8 percent of residents known to have had COVID-19 within the last 90 days.

“Eligible residents” was defined as residents over the age of 18. While the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for those over the age of 16, it is more difficult to get definite demographic information for minors.

Baker then clarified the County’s most recent Public Health Order, which coincided with the State’s lifting most COVID-19-related restrictions on April 16. She indicated that “the intent is to follow State mask orders and baseline State health orders.”

She explained that those orders now say that capacity restrictions have been removed by the State, 6-foot distancing is only required for indoor “mass” events, and only outdoor ticketed events being held in spaces that are 30,000 square feet or more must have pre-approval from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The mask mandate, which remains in place for all counties that do not fall into the formerly-defined parameters of the Green dial phase, is expected to be lifted by Colorado Governor Jared Polis on May 4. At that time, they will only be required for correctional facilities, long-term care facilities, and K-12 schools.

Grand County Medical Director Dr. Darcy Selenke observed that best evidence still indicates that the most effective actions for avoiding COVID-19 infection remain “masking, distancing, and being outside.”

“When you live your life, try to hit two out of the three,” Selenke encouraged.

She also reminded listeners that un-vaccinated individuals will still be subject to a two-week quarantine if they are exposed to a positive COVID-19 case, whereas vaccinated individuals will only need to quarantine if they begin to demonstrate symptoms of infection.

For more information on COVID-19 and Public Health Orders in the State of Colorado, go to https://covid19.colorado.gov. To stay up-to-date with Grand County data and regulations, go to co.grand.co.us/covid.