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.
Widespread transmission of COVID-19 continues at an alarming pace and the increase in illness requires more protective measures in Mesa County. Effective November 7, Mesa County will move to Level Orange: High Risk on the dial. The action comes two weeks after shifting from the Protect Our Neighbors Level to Level Blue: Cautious. A public health order will be updated and approved by the Mesa County Board of Public Health.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and the Governor’s office require this action based on the state’s dial framework, which considers the number of cases in a two-week period, percent positivity, and hospitalizations. Each of these measures continue an upward trend. Under Level Orange: High Risk, capacity limits are reduced to 25% for most sectors, group sizes are reduced, and private gatherings are limited to 10 people from no more than 2 households. Full guidance by industry can be found on the Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) website.
The most recent data shows significant increases in case counts, hospitalizations, percent positivity, and deaths due to COVID-19. In the past week, the Mesa County Coroner reported 9 deaths due to COVID-19. The majority of the deaths are associated with congregate care facilities, and are in residents aged 60-80+. Additionally, the number of cases for which the source of exposure is unknown accounts for one quarter (26%) of the cases in the previous two weeks.
Businesses certified with a 5-star rating through the Variance Protection Program are allowed to operate with less restrictive conditions and continue to work with MCPH to ensure safety for customers and employees. The program, launched in collaboration with the Grand Junction Area of Chamber of Commerce, recognizes local businesses that implement safe practices related to COVID-19. A list of current partners can be found on the MCPH website.
To track case counts and other data to monitor disease levels in our community, visit the Mesa County Public Health COVID-19 data dashboard here.
Seventy-four positive cases of COVID-19 were reported to Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) on October 22. That number is nearly double the previous record (44) which was recorded the day prior.
Although it took four months for Mesa County to reach 100 cases, this week 118 cases were reported in a 48-hour period. The increase we are experiencing is not gradual, and not showing signs of plateauing. The dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases has prompted MCPH to take action to ensure our community can continue to track, treat, and isolate cases of COVID-19.
“Mesa County’s positive cases have significantly increased over the past month. Most of this is due to informal gatherings between friends and family, and people showing up at work and other places while sick, in some instances resulting in sizable outbreaks,” Mesa County Public Health Executive Director Jeff Kuhr said. Each member of our community can help reduce transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19. We must all take action to slow the spread of illness. MCPH urges all residents to:
- AVOID crowds
- AVOID confined spaces
- AVOID close contact
If you are in a situation where these three things cannot be avoided, wear a mask as well as in public indoor settings as required by the current Executive Order.
With case counts exceeding levels allowed, and because mitigation strategies have so far not shown a decrease in cases, Mesa County will move to the ‘cautious’ level on the State of Colorado’s dial. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment assigns levels based on the number of cases in a two-week period, percent positivity, and hospitalizations, all of which are trending upward. Under this new system implemented at the state level, each county is evaluated using key metrics. Communities move between levels based on these metrics.
MCPH and the Mesa County Board of Health are working to draft a local public health order, which will be in effect upon approval.
Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) has flu vaccine available and is currently scheduling appointments. The best way to protect yourself from the flu this fall and winter is to get vaccinated. It’s a safe and effective way to keep yourself and your loved ones safe and healthy.
Influenza, or the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness characterized by fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, fatigue, body aches and headache. To avoid getting the flu, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the seasonal flu vaccine for individuals ages 6 months and older. Annual flu shots are necessary to protect against seasonal strains of the flu.
Symptoms of COVID-19 and flu are very similar. Older populations as well as those with underlying conditions are more susceptible to COVID-19 and the flu, but the flu also hits children particularly hard. There were three pediatric deaths in Colorado during the 2019-2020 flu season, and 77 hospitalizations in residents of all ages Mesa County.
Get Vaccinated Every Year
- Every year the flu changes, so you need an updated vaccine to ensure your body develops immunity to the most recent strain of the virus.
- After the vaccination, it takes approximately two weeks for the body to develop an immune response. That’s why Mesa County Public Health recommends residents get immunized now.
Mesa County Public Health is hosting two drive thru flu clinics during the month of October, all residents are welcome. Don’t let cost be a barrier, we have options for those who do not have insurance.
What: Drive Thru Flu Clinic
When: October 17, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
October 24, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Where: Mesa County Public Health
510 29 ½ Road
The MCPH Clinic offers flu vaccination during regular business hours, Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday from 8 a.m. to noon. We urge all residents who want to get a flu vaccine to come to a flu clinic, or call 970-248-6900 to make an appointment.
Mesa County Public Health provides an update on the COVID-19 response in Mesa County including a request to get Mesa County on the path to re-open some businesses with strict social distancing measures in place.
- Request to allow Mesa County to begin phasing out of stay-at-home/
- The board of commissioners approved a letter Monday morning to be sent to Governor Polis.
- The draft plan is a phased approach, that could happen in two-week stages; first allows gatherings of no more than 10 as long as 6-foot distancing guidelines are able to be met.
- This plan would be monitored and could be adjusted as needed, based on disease surveillance in our community.
Watch the briefing to learn more about:
- Results from Health and Human Services pending tests were returned, the number of pending results is now well below 100 and Mesa County Public Health is receiving the results as they come in, we do not anticipate a backlog to build with these tests anymore.
- Dr. Bill Hilty, St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center shares a provider perspective on the unique response in Mesa County, some insight on why our case counts might be lower than other areas, and the importance of a phased approach as we move through the next key steps.
- Andy Tyler, Mesa County Public Health Regional Epidemiologist shares a look inside the process of contact tracing, or contact investigations.
- Grand Junction Police Chief Doug Shoemaker, currently serving as incident commander for the City of Grand Junction shares a message of resiliency. Gives support and thanks to our community for the sacrifice and good work our community has done; and encourages us to all continue to take measures to protect our neighbors, friends, loved ones and ourselves.