Four Corners Public Radio
By Sarah Flower
Published November 15, 2021 at 9:32 PM MST

Colorado and New Mexico are seeing some of the highest cases of Covid-19 in the country. Both states have approved booster shots for residents 18 and older. As hospitals are reaching capacity, KSUT spoke with San Juan Basin Public Health's Liane Jollon about booster shots and other plans to ensure citizens can still receive quality health care.

Story transcription:

Sarah Flower:
Colorado Governor Jared Polis, this past week has announced that Colorado all across the state has really high cases of COVID-19. So much so that he has passed an executive order ahead of many states in the country, to allow adults 18 and older to get booster shots. Liane, let's start here because Colorado is really high for cases. What does this announcement from Polis mean for us here?

Liane Jollon: 00:28
Prior to this announcement from the governor of Colorado, the FDA and the CDC had authorized booster shots for anyone who's over 65. Anyone with a high risk medical condition or anyone who's living or working in a high risk setting. So what the governor did was declare that all of Colorado is a high risk setting. The entire state because our transmission rate is so high, and our hospitalization rate is so high. So this executive order allows anyone in Colorado over the age of 18, to boost their Johnson & Johnson if they're two months out from receiving the Johnson & Johnson, or boost their Pfizer or Moderna shot if they're six months out.

Also this past week, Governor Polis, in a press conference was talking, really urging for people to get vaccinated and pushing monoclonal antibodies for those who have tested positive, and yet still has not put forth a statewide mask mandate. Liane, you and your team have called on the governor to do so. I want to talk about the differences of having a local order in effect and the power behind a local order versus something that's done across the state and recognized in all 64 counties in Colorado.

This is not something that San Juan Basin Public Health is recommending by ourselves. The Association of Local Public Health Directors across the state has sent a letter to the governor's office requesting a statewide mask order, as well as many organizations like the Colorado Medical Society, the Colorado Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. And the reason is that our transmission rate is among the highest in the country. And our hospitalization rate is among the highest in the country as we are moving into a holiday season. So our hospitals across the state right now are incredibly stressed, there is so much pressure on these facilities to continue to treat people and treat people safely. And we are in a situation in Colorado, where we cannot guarantee if someone falls ill from Covid, or another reason or someone gets injured, that they're going to be able to get timely, quality hospital care because of the pressure of the Covid pandemic at this point. And it certainly has been discussed extensively to add our neighbors to the south in New Mexico, that for weeks, there has not been enough hospital care to treat New Mexicans and to especially treat northern New Mexicans. We have tremendous connectivity with that part of the state of New Mexico. And New Mexico has invoked a statewide mask order for many weeks to try to bring down the rate of transmission to ensure that the pressure on these hospitals, and especially the staff working in these hospitals, is something that's addressed.

I want to take a moment and talk booster shots, let's clear who's eligible, what the state of Colorado has allowed, I also want to point out that New Mexico has approved booster shots for those that are 18 and older. I think there's been a bit of confusion and people that are not in that 65 and older demographic are apprehensive because they don't want to take a shot away from anybody else. Liane, let's clear up a few things and talk about what San Juan Basin Public Health and your partners are doing to put the boosters in the arms of people in southwest Colorado.

So this is part of what has been declared in Colorado, and been declared in New Mexico, is this very high rate of transmission will put everybody in both of these states at risk for Covid-19 at this point, and therefore eligible for a booster. So we encourage adults over the age of 18 to go in and get their booster shot and especially do it in advance of the holidays.

Liane Jollon, Executive Director of San Juan Basin Public Health, anything else you want to add today?

I think the other thing that people should know about is that Colorado is working very hard to increase access to monoclonal antibody treatments. And we here in the southwest corner of the state have just received a mobile clinic from the State of Colorado to ensure that folks down here, should they test positive and be high risk for severe illness, are able to get in and get the monoclonal antibody treatment. So as of right now, this would be a referral from your health care provider, should you test positive and there may become even more monoclonal antibodies available in our communities in coming days and weeks.