Public Health update: State of Colorado research indicates you're 50 times more likely to not have severe infection or need hospitalization if you're fully vaccinated and boosted

Four Corners Public Radio | By Sarah Flower
Published December 13, 2021

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The mobile monoclonal antibody treatment bus is parked by the La Plata County Fairgrounds. Its time here has been extended by the state of Colorado through the holidays. Those who have tested positive for Covid and are at risk for severe infection are encouraged to consider this free service. /Stasia Lanier

There have been more covid-related deaths in La Plata and Archuleta counties over the last 3 months than any other time during this pandemic. KSUT spoke with San Juan Basin Public Health's Liane Jollon about the spike in deaths, response to the governor's recent comments on the pandemic, and the monoclonal antibody treatment bus.

Interview transcript:

Sarah Flower
As the CDC has just recently recommended 16 and 17 year olds, and those older are eligible to get a booster shot. Liane, more and more evidence is mounting that two doses just isn't quite enough, especially with news of this new variant coming on.

Liane Jollon
The first new piece of information is that the CDC did authorize booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for 16 and 17 year olds. So with that San Juan Basin Public Health, working with our partners at our Jogan CDPHE vaccine sites have booster shots available for 16 and 17 year olds. You can go to our website, you can find out when the next available appointment is. They're available almost every single day, as well as we have a list of other providers that have shots available. What we really want people to understand is that the state of Colorado has done some research and you are 50 times more likely to not have severe infection and not need hospitalization if you're fully vaccinated and boosted, so it is really important if you're 16 or 17, or if you're any age and eligible for a booster, go in and get your shot. Make it part of your holiday checklist of things to do to get ready for the holidays. I know that people have been putting it off, I put it off. I didn't do it till right before Thanksgiving, because I was going to see a lot of family over Thanksgiving. If you didn't do it for Thanksgiving, and you're going to see a lot of people or you're going to travel for the next set of holidays, go in and get boosted. One of the things that we know is that right now in Colorado, we have a very high infection rate. We have more people hospitalized and quite frankly, we have more people dying of COVID right now in Colorado than any other time during this pandemic. And boosters are becoming increasingly important not only for the Delta surge that's causing so much hospitalization and fatality right now, but also potentially as the best protection that we can offer for the omicron variant should it become the dominant strain here in Colorado.

Liane, your team recently sent out a press release that talked about the number of COVID deaths that you just mentioned across Colorado, but in La Plata and Archuleta counties, your team's reporting that 30% of all COVID deaths have happened in the last 90 days for La Plata County, and 60% in Archuleta County. That number seems incredibly high.

Well, I think to put things into perspective, with having such a high rate of hospitalizations, and a high rate of fatality right now in this pandemic, to talk about it like it's over and everyone's health is protected, is just simply not the case. We have a responsibility here at the local level, to give people the best information that we can so that people can protect their own health and protect the health of those around them. And this is something that public health does all the time. Public health tells people to wear seatbelts and eventually wearing seatbelts became the law. And public health does studies about things like wearing helmets and things like that become the law and become mandated. Public health tells people to wear condoms to protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections, and this becomes, a good practice if you don't want to catch an infection. So there is kind of this gamut of things that happen when public health studies something and makes recommendations. Sometimes it becomes a recommendation. Sometimes it becomes a mandate, sometimes it becomes a law. And right now what we know is we've seen more people die from COVID here in the last 90 days, than we have an any other 90 day period of this pandemic.

Liane, when we talked last week, you had mentioned that the monoclonal antibody bus that was at the fairgrounds in La Plata County, would be here until the end of that week. It's looking like it's extending through much of December that that bus will be available. Let's talk about that.

We are super fortunate that the state of Colorado has sent resources to our region in the form of this monoclonal antibody treatment bus, it is at the fairgrounds where we have a testing site. And the way that you can access it is if you test positive and you are high risk for severe infection, then you can go on our website or the State's website and read through what the criteria is and get in to get a treatment as quickly as possible. So this is a free treatment that is very good at keeping anyone who's been exposed and testing positive for meeting, hospital care due to severe infection. It is a free treatment. So we do want people to know about it, we want you to know it's not in place of vaccines. Vaccines are the first line of defense. But this is a good option if you end up positive and at risk for severe infection. Now the other thing is the state has sent us this resource. It is here through the holidays and with the potential to extend to the end of the year or beyond. So it is something that we need people to access on demand when they test positive. So please know about this resource in case you become or someone close to you becomes the person who's testing positive and needs this resource.