The new Delta variant is quickly spreading throughout Colorado. KSUT’s Sarah Flower spoke with Liane Jollon of San Juan Basin Public Health for a COVID-19 update.

Sarah Flower  00:00

Hi, I’m Sarah flower with KSUT News. Today we are joined with Liane Jollon, Executive Director of San Juan Basin Public Health Department and recent recipient of “Outstanding Woman of the Year Award” from Southwest Colorado Women in Business. Hello, Leanne, and congratulations.

Liane Jollon  00:19

Yeah, that was quite nice and just a wonderful surprise. But you know, we’ve talked about this a whole bunch, there’s no succeeding in public health without obviously the entire team at San Juan Basin Public Health who’ve just been amazing throughout this thing. And also the whole community, right, I mean, there’s no way that any one of us is doing anything heroic in a pandemic – we all are, everybody’s life has been upside down for 18 months, and everybody has had to do really hard things, you know, that we weren’t expecting to do. And we continue to remind people, we’ve lost loved ones, we’ve gotten sick. And if we haven’t lost loved ones or gotten sick, all of our plans are disrupted, we have to put our dreams on hold for 18 months. So this is really an effort that everybody is making it through together.

Sarah Flower  01:07

And here we are nearing the end of June going into July with President Biden’s goal of getting 70% of the country vaccinated by that point. We’re getting close to that  regionally. Liane, what’s your prediction of making that goal? What are your thoughts?

Liane Jollon  01:26

It’s just like the conversation we had about, you know, outstanding performance of the year, this is going to rely on everybody’s performance. So in order to make this goal, you know, I think we’re about 10 days away. And again, it’s really, using this as an opportunity to remind people getting vaccinated is really, really important. If you haven’t gotten vaccinated yet, please get in and get started. So between La Plata and Archuleta counties, we’re about 1000 shots away from making 70% of everyone started by July 4th. In La Plata, and Archuleta counties, I think we have a little over 600  to go in Archuleta County, we have three or 400 left to go in La Plata County. But I think the really important takeaway is that vaccines are working, we are bringing down infection rates, we’re not bringing it down in Colorado as fast as everywhere else in the country. So we still have work to do. And if you are not vaccinated, it’s getting really, really dangerous out there. The Delta variant is spreading and that amount of infection we have an unvaccinated populations is actually pretty high here in Colorado,

Sarah Flower  02:40

This Delta variant, which the CDC and public health officials across the nation are assuming that this delta variant will take over the formerly known as UK variant, as the dominant spreading variant of COVID-19 in the country,

Liane Jollon  02:55

Right. And Delta variant is the one that you know, caused all this devastation in India over the spring. So it was initially called, I believe, the 16172. And now it’s being called the Delta variant. And we have seen it grow at a pace, you know, the Delta variant. The UK has really well developed genomic sequencing so they have a really good timeline of how quickly the B117 took over, and the way that the Delta variant has replaced the B117. It’s traveled at twice the speed of the B117. So right as this information became available, is when the CDC here in the U.S. labeled the Delta varient  as a varient of concern. There’s some you know, we don’t have really robust genomic sequencing in the U.S. So we have very spotty sequencing. So we’re always a little bit behind of knowing where variants are spreading and how fast they’re spreading very early on, it was found in Mesa County, and we believe it’s grown through the westslope, through all of Colorado, there are some indications that 40% of all cases in the U.S. are the Delta varient, and certainly in Mesa County, there’s suspicion that 100% of the cases at this point are the Delta variant. And that’s going to spread here, right? It has to do we are we have a lot of connectivity across the western slope. So for people who are not vaccinated, we cannot stress enough how contagious the Delta variant is, and how quickly and easily it can land you in the hospital. So we really want people that are not vaccinated to know it’s here, it’s moving quickly, it’s only going to travel fast in unvaccinated populations. And the other thing we want people to know is that if you only got one shot of your Pfizer or Moderna, come in and get your second shot, because we really see a tremendous difference in how well you’re protected when you get that second shot against the Delta varient.

Sarah Flower  04:55

I do want to talk about this notion of masking and not masking. You know, there are signs everywhere that say if you’re fully vaccinated feel free to shop without a mask on. But based on our percentages across the state across counties, the math isn’t adding up with the percentage of people that are masking and and are not masking, which is such a tricky spot to kind of dip your toe into going back to normal. Let’s talk about that.

Liane Jollon  05:22

You know, it is tricky. I think that the CDC, you know, released this information that vaccinated people can take off masks because we really wanted people to understand the vaccines work and work well, right. And we’re still finding that we’re even finding that with this new dangerous Delta variant, but you’re absolutely right, if nationwide, were just at about half of the population as fully vaccinated or fully immunized, meaning that they’re two weeks out from the completion of their series. We are seeing a lot more people not asked then kind of the statistics indicate. So here locally, we’ve kept an advisory, we want people to understand that until we really dropped cases further, you know, Colorado needs to catch up to the rest of the country. There’s plenty of places in the country where they’re looking at less than 10 cases, you know, per 100,000 residents over seven days. Colorado is not there yet. We’re still you know, you know, maybe 80 cases per 100,000 residents over seven days. We’re the highest in the country, right? I think we’ve been bouncing back and forth. It was Colorado, with some upper Midwest states, now, then it became Colorado tough by itself. Now, Colorado is bouncing back and forth with Wyoming as the highest rates in the country. But a lot of the Wyoming cases are the southern border of Wyoming actually where they connect to Colorado. So we think Wyoming’s high rate is really exported from Colorado. So we’re really stressing to people that Colorado, you know, we’re stuck. We’re not coming down as quickly as possible. So we really want people to be thoughtful about this. Yes, vaccines work. Yes, if you were hanging out with other people who everyone is fully immunized, it’s okay to take your mask off. But when we’re in public, it’s okay also to keep your mask on and remind everybody that we haven’t we haven’t beaten this all the way back yet. And, you know, we still have work to do.

Sarah Flower  07:22

Liane Jollon, Executive Director of San Juan Basin, Public Health Department, is there anything else that you’d like to add for us here today?

Liane Jollon  07:28

You know, I’d like to remind people that their community testing sites are still available every single day, and we do have results, you know, at the sites now we get a result back, if you choose the rapid test, you can have a really reliable results in about 20 minutes. And you know, if you’re not fully immunized yet, and you’re experiencing symptoms, or you learn that you’ve been exposed, please come in and get a test. And let’s take advantage you know, there’s new testing types, the new testing, rapid tests at home test all kinds of ways to get tested. You know, camps are doing tests, summer schools are doing tests, different employers are doing tests. Let’s all, you know, like until we’re fully immunized, let’s keep taking advantage of testing. And then remember, you know, it is summertime and I know, it’s been extraordinarily achingly hot in the middle of the day, but in the times in the day where it’s not as hot, take your activities outside, right, whether you’re fully immunized or not. We just have learned so much in this pandemic about how it is safer outside. So you know, like we said, Colorado, we haven’t squeezed those numbers down to where we’d like to see them. So the more activities we do outside, the better we’re all going to be.

Sarah Flower  08:35

Liane Jollon thanks so much for joining us here today on KSUT for our Covid-19 update.