by D.J. DeJong
Mail Staff Writer
January’s COVID-19 case count surpassed the November high of 434 cases in a month Thursday, making this the most case-heavy month since the pandemic began in March 2020.
With Thursday’s addition of 56 cases, January’s count stood at 457 as of 5 p.m. Thursday, only two weeks into the month.
Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center reports three cases currently hospitalized, bringing the 14-day total to seven hospitalizations. Of those, new data shows four unvaccinated patients, one having received the primary series (two Pfizer or Moderna shots or one Johnson & Johnson) and two boostered patients.
To date there have been 2,915 cases in Chaffee County since the pandemic began, with 29 deaths directly attributable to the virus.
A breakdown of the 302 cases reported in the last week shows the largest group affected by the virus continues to be those 18 and younger.
Cases by age:
18 and younger 103
80 and older 5
(Numbers are as of 5 p.m. Thursday.)
Chaffee County Public Health Director Andrea Carlstrom said the strategies that worked well with Delta and past variants are not necessarily the strategies that make sense for Omicron as more is learned about it.
“It’s almost as if we are in the midst of a brand-new pandemic,” she said.
She said Omicron is more transmissible but less severe than Delta. It is fast moving. It is defying testing and masking strategies that have been implemented in the past.
With Omicron, she said, people seem to be contagious for a shorter duration of time and fewer deaths and hospitalizations are being seen due to this variant.
Carlstrom said, “The modeling appears as though we could see the peak of this current surge within one to two weeks.”
At this stage, Carlstrom said, the focus should be based on hospitalizations and deaths rather than incidence.
“We know that many of us will get this strain in this current chapter of the pandemic,” she said.
Efforts continue to focus on what can be done to keep hospitals from surging as well as maintaining essential service functions and workforce, including schools open to in-person learning.
Carlstrom said the COVID-19 vaccine works at preventing severe illness and hospitalizations, especially if someone has received a booster dose of it.
“If we continue to live amidst Omicron or a variant like it, then we have a good chance of normalizing this virus like we do many other illnesses in our society,” she said.
“The most important shift for all of us to adapt to is staying at home when sick, even with mild illness.
“I am hopeful that we are nearing the day when we can move from a pandemic response to a more endemic way of living with COVID-19,” Carlstrom said.
Statewide, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported a seven-day moving average of 12,468 cases with a positivity rate of 29.25 percent.
The seven-day moving average of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 across Colorado was 335 per day as of Thursday with 24 percent of the state’s available hospital beds occupied by confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients.