Two years after the first COVID-19 case was identified, Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) is releasing a special report, complementing the Community Health Needs Assessment. The COVID-19 Impact Report is dedicated solely to the impacts of COVID-19 in Mesa County.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, case investigators with MCPH tracked case counts, community spread, and deaths due to the virus. Tracking these data, related to direct impacts, is vital to understanding where and how the virus spreads, who is most at risk, and allows the agency to share public health guidance to protect the community and control illness outbreaks.
As data related to the number of cases was being shared through an online Data Dashboard, the Research and Planning team at MCPH was tracking in-depth and more indirect measures as to how Mesa County was impacted by the pandemic.
MCPH Releases the COVID-19 Impact Report
The report examines the time period between 2019-2021 and includes information on calls for service by law enforcement, healthcare visits with mental health notes, utilization of local sports programs, unemployment benefit comparisons to wages, and more. Examining these measures provides the most comprehensive look to date at the impacts of the pandemic on our community, with the intent to inform community organizations in their plans for action over the next few years.
Some of the findings include:
- In 2020, the average age of overdose death dropped by 10 years.
- Job losses impacted our local economy with a 10% reduction at the start of the pandemic, but unlike the recession of 2008, losses are on track to recover by the end of 2022.
- Child care and preschool facilities faced workforce challenges. Licensed child care capacity for children ages 0-5 dropped by 6% between 2019 and 2020, and an additional 11% between 2020 and 2021.
- Alcohol-related causes of death increased during the first year of the pandemic, the data shows a 45% increase over typical (baseline) causes.
The report highlights areas of impact rooted in the Social Determinants of Health. These are conditions in the environments where people live, learn, work, and play, that impact their health. This is the same way data is presented in the Community Health Needs Assessment released last year.
MESA COUNTY RECORDS HIGHEST DAILY CASE COUNT SINCE THE BEGINNING OF THE PANDEMIC
Caution Urged As Omicron Dominates Spread Locally
Mesa County has seen a recent significant spike in COVID-19 transmission and cases. On January 9, 2022, 532 cases were reported. That is the highest single-day case total. Previously, the most cases reported in a single day was 322 in November 2020.
Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) continues to urge prevention methods in a layered (the more the better) approach for all Mesa County residents, regardless of vaccination status. All Mesa County residents are asked to stay home and do not go to work, child care, public places, or gatherings if you have symptoms of any kind, even if you are vaccinated. If you have symptoms, even if they seem mild, please get a COVID-19 test.
“This is Omicron. We know it spreads quickly, sharp spikes like this are occurring in other areas of the state and country,” Jeff Kuhr, Director of Public Health for Mesa County, said. MCPH anticipated an increase in cases after the holiday season. “We’re not seeing as dramatic of a spike in our hospital admissions; a sign that illness, especially for those who are vaccinated, is typically milder, so the strain on our hospitals isn’t as severe with this latest surge so far. Because hospitalizations lag behind cases, we are closely monitoring admissions and other key metrics,” Kuhr added.
Other areas of the country experiencing this wave have also seen dramatic increases, followed by a much quicker reduction in cases than observed with previous surges.
Recent cases are distributed across all age groups, with the 5-11 age group experiencing the highest positivity rates, currently around 23%. The current 7-day positivity rate across all ages is currently at 15.2%, a pandemic high.
“The volume of cases and the sharp spike are alarming, but it’s important to note we are not in the same place we were last year or in March of 2020,” MCPH Disease Surveillance and Emergency Response Program Manager, Rachel Burmeister said. We know a lot more about this illness, the ways it spreads, and the steps we can take to protect ourselves and each other. “It’s likely you know someone who is sick right now, there are things we can all do to minimize the spread of illness in our community,” Burmeister added.
We can all protect ourselves and each other by staying home and away from work, child care, and school if you are not feeling well, avoiding close contact with others, covering your nose and mouth in public indoor areas, and utilizing remote (curbside, contactless delivery, work from home) options when possible.
Because of the volume of cases, there may be a delay in case investigation. If you do not receive a call from a public health professional but you have tested positive for COVID-19 you should:
- Immediately isolate for at least 5 days (the day your symptoms started is day 0).
- If you do not have symptoms the day you got tested is day 0.
- If, after 5 days, your symptoms are getting better and you do not have a fever you may return to normal activities while wearing a mask in all public settings for an additional 5 days (10 days total).
If you have come in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID, there is a high likelihood that you are also infected. You should quarantine for 5 days and monitor yourself for symptoms. If, after 5 days you remain symptom free, you can return to normal activities while wearing a mask for an additional 5 days. If you develop symptoms, get tested and isolate.
As of January 10, 54% of Mesa County residents are fully vaccinated with more than 30-thousand booster doses (approximately 21%) administered. All Mesa County residents age 5 and older are eligible to be vaccinated. The vaccine is widely available in our community at numerous pharmacies, mobile clinics, and the Community Vaccination Site at Mesa County Public Health. Walk-ins are accepted at most locations, scheduling an appointment is also an option. MCPH is administering third (booster) doses which are now authorized five months after the initial series for Moderna and Pfizer recipients and two months after a Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
In response to this current wave, MCPH will update all metrics of the data dashboard daily (M-Sun) so our residents can monitor the data and make informed decisions. Stay up to date by visiting health.mesacounty.us.
Related Resources: Updated Isolation and Quarantine Guidance [English] [Spanish]
With approval from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and authorization by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) is now accepting appointments for pediatric patients, age 5-11 to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
The MCPH online appointment system is open for individuals in the newly approved group to schedule appointments. A parent or guardian will be able to schedule the appointment and must sign a consent form. In addition, we have adjusted our Community Vaccination site to allow for individual appointment rooms, an atmosphere better suited for children to receive their COVID-19 vaccination than a mass vaccination site. MCPH will offer Saturday appointments for these pediatric vaccinations, at the MCPH building, located at 510 29 ½ Road. Due to the specialized nature of these visits, appointments are required.
The Pfizer vaccine for this age group is one-third of the adult dose. The vaccine is still given as a two-dose series, three weeks apart.
Illness levels among school-age children (5-11) have been steadily increasing since the first part of September. The percent positivity, or the percentage of positive tests compared to the number of tests administered, is at 12% for the most recently completed week (October 31).
Percent positivity or the percentage of positive tests compared to the number of tests administered, for children age 5-11 as of October 31, 2021.
Based on 2020 population estimates, 8.5% of Mesa County’s population is in the 5-11 age group. This new approval makes this population eligible to receive the life-saving vaccine for the first time. Previously only individuals age 12 and older were eligible.
The COVID-19 vaccines continue to be remarkably effective in reducing the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death, including against the delta variant. CDC data show that in August 2021, the risk of dying from COVID-19 in the U.S. was more than 11 times greater for unvaccinated people than for fully vaccinated people.
If you are unable to complete online scheduling or prefer to make an appointment over the phone call 970-248-6900. Individuals who are more comfortable communicating in Spanish should call the Mesa County Public Health Spanish-language line at 970-255-3700.
Stay up to date by visiting health.mesacounty.us.
Public Health Emerging Issues – 9/9/2021
NOT JUST COVID-19: OTHER RESPIRATORY VIRUSES CIRCULATING IN MESA COUNTY
- COVID-19 continues to be prevalent in Mesa County and is increasing in younger populations.
- Other viruses are circulating too, including Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) a very common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms.
- State health experts warn co-circulation of COVID-19, influenza, and RSV will likely put a significant strain on the pediatric health care system.
- This summer there have been an unusual number of early cases reported from Children’s Hospital Colorado.
- RSV is typically not seen at these levels until the winter months with Mesa County RSV cases historically occurring between January and April.
- MCPH is aware of increased illness in at least two child care facilities due to RSV.
- Mesa County Public Health (MC
PH) monitors outbreaks of RSV in childcares, and other educational and living facilities to aid in understanding of exclusion procedures and cleaning protocols to ensure a healthy environment.
- RSV can cause severe infection in some people, including babies 12 months and younger (infants), especially premature infants, older adults, people with heart and lung disease, or anyone with a weak immune system (immunocompromised).
- In adults and older, healthy children, RSV symptoms are mild and typically mimic the common cold.
- Symptoms usually appear four to six days after exposure and can include:
- Congested or runny nose
- Dry cough
- Low-grade fever
- Sore throat
- RSV is spread easily through fluids of the mouth and nose. The virus can live on surfaces and objects for hours. People touch the surface with the virus then touch their mouth, nose, or eyes. It can also be spread by inhaling droplets from a sneeze or cough and direct contact, like shaking hands.
- Based on state and national surveillance data, pediatric hospitalization rates for RSV are typically higher than influenza hospitalization rates and also exceeded the pediatric COVID-19 hospitalization rates seen in 2020. More information here.
Public Health Recommendations:
- Parents and caregivers should keep all children with cold-like symptoms out of childcare and school settings, even if they test negative for COVID-19.
- Stay home from work if you are feeling sick, particularly if you work in the health care, childcare, education, and long-term care industries.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Cover coughs or sneezes using your elbow instead of your hand when a tissue is not available.
- If you have a negative COVID-19 test, seek additional support from a primary care provider to see if you have another virus like influenza or RSV.
- Consider a COVID-19 and a flu vaccine to protect against severe illness and hospitalization.
- Clean frequently touched surfaces like doorknobs, tables, handrails, and toys..
- Encourage and practice hand hygiene at home, school, and work. Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub when soap and water is not readily available.
The FREE community sampling site operated by Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) for COVID-19 testing located at the Mesa County Fairgrounds will be open on Veterans Day, Wednesday, November 11.
You do not have to have an appointment, but pre-registration is encouraged. Information about how to register can be found on the Mesa County Public Health website. There are no identification or insurance requirements.
People with symptoms of COVID-19 are encouraged to get tested as soon as possible. Symptoms include:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
Anyone who gets tested because of symptoms or because of a possible exposure should be in isolation or quarantine while waiting for the test result. All individuals who believe they may have been exposed to COVID-19 should quarantine and limit their exposure to others for a full 14 days, even if they have been tested and the result is negative, since the virus can take up to two weeks to emerge.
Identifying illness early is a key component of slowing the spread of COVID-19. Testing is one part of the multi-pronged approach, and we must all take action to slow the spread of illness.
Mesa County Public Health urges all residents to avoid crowds, confined spaces, and close contact. COVID-19 spreads more easily in these environments and the risk of infections and outbreaks is higher when these factors overlap.