Community COVID-19 Response Reduction
Testing, Vaccination, Treatments, and Case Investigation Still Available
Since the first case of COVID-19 was identified in Mesa County in March 2020, public health, emergency services, and health care providers have worked in close collaboration to meet community needs and respond to the demands of a global pandemic and its impact in Mesa County.
Mesa County Public Health (MCPH), as the local public health authority, has been the agency in charge and leader of response for the past 24 months. Public Health staff responded immediately to create a dedicated community information line for questions related to COVID-19, a community testing site, once-daily vaccination clinics, mobile operations, outreach and education for local business, and infection control support for high-risk settings (such as long-term care facilities and other congregate living facilities) where this novel virus had the potential to spread very quickly.
As infection levels have decreased in Mesa County in recent weeks, careful planning for the reduction of the response has occurred. “We scaled up quickly, we had to,” recalls Jeff Kuhr, Director of Public Health for Mesa County. “Pulling back and slowly reducing the level of our response has been more methodical and planned – we’re confident the time is right,” Kuhr added.
March 26, 2022, will be the last day of operations for the Mesa County Public Health supported COVID-19 testing site at the Mesa County Fairgrounds. Free community testing through Mesa County Public Health has been provided since the beginning. The testing site initially operated at the MCPH facility, then expanded to the Mesa County Fairgrounds. At the peak of demand for testing, hundreds of samples were collected and sent for testing each day. In all, tens of thousands of tests were administered.
Testing is still available for free. Individuals with symptoms of COVID-19 can stop by the Health and Human Services Building, located at 510 29 ½ Road to pick up free at-home rapid test kits, request them via state and federal ship-to-home programs or visit a COVIDCheck Colorado site which will remain in operation in Mesa County.
Mesa County Public Health will continue to offer all COVID-19 vaccines free of charge. The community vaccination site, once located at the Grand Junction Convention Center, will continue to operate in the Mesa County Public Health Clinic. Information about appointments for individuals age 5 and older can be found on the COVID-19 Vaccine page. MCPH will continue to serve in an advisory role for pharmacy and physician office locations dozens of which will continue to dispense vaccines, free of charge. A list of locations in Mesa County to get the COVID-19 vaccine can be found on our website or by texting your zip code to 438829.
CASE INVESTIGATION AND CONTACT TRACING
MCPH continues disease surveillance for COVID-19 and dozens of other communicable diseases. Our Case Investigation team, which at one time employed more than 30 full and part-time employees has been reduced. This core team is responsible for COVID-19 as well as other illnesses that MCPH routinely tracks to ensure safety. With community spread significantly reduced, this team will focus on early detection and assistance to control outbreaks in high-risk settings.
COMMUNITY DATA REPORTING
The data dashboard on the MCPH website will be updated to include key features and be updated on weekly intervals. Since March 2020, daily summaries (including weekend updates) were shared community-wide, in the fall of 2021, weekend updates were no longer needed, but 7-day a week updates were reinstated during the Omicron surge. All case and historical data will continue to be available.
The Mesa County Public health website with dedicated COVID-19 pages and information has been a community resource since its creation in February of 2020. MCPH had the foresight to create these resources as COVID spread in other communities, preparing for possible impacts to our community weeks before the first “presumptive positive” (as it was called at the time) case in Colorado. The COVID-19 page launched with a national map and key information about the spread of the illness. The dashboard and online resources have expanded throughout the pandemic to include testing information, vaccine eligibility and appointment-making capabilities, and the presentation of real-time data for our community to make informed decisions.
WORKING TOGETHER FOR A HEALTHY COMMUNITY
MCPH has worked tirelessly to present public health recommendations and guidance to our community. As testing criteria changed and became more widely available, as Colorado moved through levels on the dial, and as eligibility for vaccine rolled out we shared the latest guidance to stay safe. The MCPH website has received more than 5 million views in the last two years and continues to be a trusted source of information related to COVID-19.
As the case numbers decrease the team at MCPH remains committed to ensuring our community has the information and resources to move beyond COVID. “We’ve worked hard to balance our community’s overall health; that includes physical and mental health as well as the economic health of our community,” Kuhr added.
We have two years behind us, but so much ahead as we work together for a healthy community.