Dire warnings as COVID Delta variant runs rampant in unvaccinated Missouri

Health

Raw Story 25 June, 2021 - 11:41am 52 views

Missouri—where less than half of the population over the age of 18 has been fully inoculated—has emerged as the U.S. hot spot for the Delta strain, which officials say is fueling the alarming surge in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations that the state has experienced in recent weeks even as cases decline in the U.S. as a whole. Missouri currently has the highest rate of new Covid-19 infections in the country.

"It's nearly 100% of the people hospitalized with Covid pneumonia are unvaccinated," said Dr. Robin Trotman, an infectious disease expert at CoxHealth, a six-hospital nonprofit healthcare system headquartered in Springfield. "Now we do have vaccinated people who test positive, but they don't get severely ill."

CNN reported Thursday that "more than half of those admitted to the two major hospitals in the Springfield area are from surrounding counties with limited health clinics."

"Those counties each have fully vaccinated rates below 20%," the outlet noted. "The national average is more than twice that figure, at 46%."

According to the Associated Press, the coronavirus surge in Missouri is "happening largely in a politically conservative farming region in the northern part of the state and in the southwestern corner, which includes Springfield and Branson, the country music mecca in the Ozark Mountains where big crowds are gathering again at the city's theaters and other attractions."

"While over 53% of all Americans have received at least one shot... most southern and northern Missouri counties are well short of 40%," AP observed. "One county is at just 13%."

Erik Frederick, chief administrative officer at Mercy Hospital Springfield, told AP that 60% to 65% of patients in the ICU at his facility last weekend were under the age of 40, a segment of the population that is less likely to be vaccinated.

In recent days, local public health officials and federal experts have been sounding the alarm about the threat posed by the Delta strain in the hope that residents of other states will learn from the public health disaster that's unfolding in Missouri.

"If people elsewhere in the country are looking to us and saying, 'No thanks' and they are getting vaccinated, that is good," said Frederick. "We will be the canary."

During a press briefing earlier this week, Dr. Anthony Fauci—head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases—called the Delta variant "the greatest threat in the U.S. to our attempt to eliminate Covid-19."

"Good news: Our vaccines are effective against the Delta variant," Fauci added. "Conclusion: We have the tools, so let's use them and crush the outbreak."

Though Missouri has seen the most acute consequences of the Delta variant thus far, the mutation is also spreading in Utah, New York, Nevada, Arkansas, and other states, raising concerns of an imminent nationwide spike in cases that could be followed by increased hospitalizations and deaths, particularly among the unvaccinated.

An AP analysis out Thursday found that "nearly all Covid-19 deaths in the U.S. now are in people who weren't vaccinated, a staggering demonstration of how effective the shots have been and an indication that deaths per day—now down to under 300—could be practically zero if everyone eligible got the vaccine."

But the U.S. vaccination drive has slowed in recent weeks, and the Biden White House conceded Tuesday that it will miss its goal of getting 70% of the nation's adults at least partially vaccinated by July 4.

Citing a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis released Monday, the Washington Post reported that vaccine "resistance is greatest among younger people."

"Just 38.3% of those ages 18 to 29 have been vaccinated," the Post noted. "Across all age groups, people living in counties with high rates of poor and uninsured people and less access to computers and the Internet were less likely to be vaccinated... In general, rural and Republican areas have embraced vaccination less than cities and Democratic states in the Northeast and along the West Coast."

The Delta variant currently accounts for more than a third of all new coronavirus cases in the U.S.; in India and the United Kingdom, the strain is behind more than 90% of new infections. Officials in Israel and Sydney, Australia are also rushing to contain Delta outbreaks.

"After observing the startlingly swift rise of the Delta variant in the United Kingdom, other countries are bracing for the variant's impact—if they aren't feeling it already," Nature's Ewen Callaway reported earlier this week. "Nations with ample access to vaccines, such as those in Europe and North America, are hopeful that the shots can dampen the inevitable rise of Delta. But in countries without large vaccine stocks, particularly in Africa, some scientists worry that the variant could be devastating.

Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, warned in a series of tweets on Thursday that the U.S. could soon see an infection surge similar to the one hitting the U.K., which has vaccinated a larger percentage of its population.

"The U.K. experience suggests U.S. vaccination level will not be enough to ward off a Delta spike," Jha wrote. "The spike won't be uniform across the nation. Indeed, low-vax communities are particularly at risk."

That finding, through joint investigative reporting by the South Florida Sun Sentinel and the Pulitzer Center, revealed the stunning degree to which police were using surveillance on protesters. That included protests in Boca Raton in which "surprising images of solidarity" had shown police officers in riot gear taking a knee with cheering protesters.

"Behind the scenes, however, police photographed protesters," the Sun-Sentinel reported Saturday. "And they ran protest-related images through a vast and unregulated facial recognition database, records show. That's like going through a crowd and inspecting people's driver's licenses, which would almost certainly be prohibited as an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment."

"In one case, records show, police requested matching images and identifying information for a "possible protest organizer" as well as their various "associates." In another, police ran nearly 20 searches linked to "Intelligence," a controversial use of the technology before a crime has even been committed.

"Police sometimes use facial recognition technology to track down violent and lawbreaking protesters, as Miami police did with one woman accused of hurling rocks at officers during a protest last summer. But legal experts say police go too far when they seek facial recognition matches of people assembling peacefully to make their voices heard, and it's especially troubling when they are protesting for police reform."

The Sun-Sentinel findings did not sit well with privacy experts.

"It's horrifying. To find searches run specifically for protests, which is a clearly protected First Amendment right," said Clare Garvie, a senior associate at Georgetown University's Center on Privacy & Technology, noting such usage has been rarely documented. "Particularly in protests against police activity, there's the fear that police are going to target and retaliate against those individuals."

The report included denials from law-enforcement officials that the technology was being misused: "The Broward Sheriff's Office and other agencies emphasized that a match alone would not be enough reason for an arrest." But it added this:

"Nonetheless, use of the technology has also proven fraught. Bad facial recognition matches have been implicated in at least three wrongful arrests across the country, all involving Black men. Studies have shown racial bias in facial recognition technology, including high error rates in identifying people of color and misidentifying Black women nearly 35 percent of the time. The paradox: people who march against police brutality and over-policing of Black communities are being surveilled by a technology shown to harbor racial bias.

"Experts have long cautioned that police use of facial recognition could have a chilling effect on free speech, leading people to censor themselves or avoid protests. Even the undisclosed pulling of photos on social media for facial recognition raises alarms about police targeting individuals unnecessarily, posing a surveillance risk as a "tool of social control."

"Chad Marlow, a senior policy counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union, said it was one thing to run facial scans of someone who "had written a manifesto that they planned to set up a bomb in a big crowd," and it was quite another to scan protesters overall.

"People could end up on a watch list, with their social media monitored going forward," Marlow said." "There's no reason police should zero in and identify people because, God forbid, they are ... very vocal advocates."

You can read the full Sun-Sentinel report here.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) played the victim during a campaign speech at a Trump campaign rally in Ohio.

She first polled the crowd on who is there president to "make sure she was talking to smart people." The crowd shouted "Trump" in reply.

She complained about investigations into Trump, the "dirty, rotten media," Democrats, and how she is the new "bad guy" in Washington, DC.

"I didn't go to Washington, DC to make friends," she said of being stripped of committee assignments for her reckless rhetoric.

She went on to list reasons why she is so toxic, but did not list her support of the QAnon conspiracy theory, her offensive comments on the Holocaust, or her efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.

And she once again lied that "Democrats stole the election" and called Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez a "communist" and suggested she should be imprisoned.

Donald Trump on Saturday traveled to Ohio to give a campaign speech in what is being described as his "revenge rally."

One conspiracy believing Trump fan appeared to drive 500 miles for the event.

"While Trump has made speeches at Republican events since his election defeat by Democratic President Joe Biden, the rally in a state he carried in the 2020 election marks a return to the kind of freewheeling mass gatherings that have been critical to retaining the support of his base," Reuters noted. "It also marks the start of his public events lashing out at elected Republicans who he views as having crossed him. He will campaign for former White House aide Max Miller, who has launched a primary challenge against Representative Anthony Gonzalez, one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump on a charge of inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by his supporters that left five dead including a Capitol Police officer."

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Country Music Fest In Boebert's District A Potential COVID SuperSpreader Event

HillReporter.com 25 June, 2021 - 11:30pm

A country music festival is posing a grave public health threat to Rep. Lauren Boebert’s vaccine-resistant Colorado congressional district.

Mesa County, where health officials have been scrambling to contain a new outbreak of COVID-19 among vaccine-hesitant residents in the deeply conservative region, will be hosting the three-day Country Jam Festival amid a surge of the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus.

Despite Colorado being a Blue state, the more rural areas lean very Red, hence Boebert’s inexplicable rise to Congress despite only receiving her GED while on the 2020 campaign trail. More than half the state’s 534 cases of the Delta variant are in Mesa County, where only 40 percent of people are fully vaccinated and 44 percent have gotten at least one dose, and hospitals are already nearing capacity.

Rep. Boebert’s District in COVID stats pic.twitter.com/gQeGvw0sL8

— CW (@seawells68) June 23, 2021

COVID-19 conspiracy theories and anti-government sentiment are prevalent in the county, which earlier this month hosted a seminar spreading coronavirus disinformation organized by Boebert’s campaign manager Sherronna Bishop, featuring a Nigerian doctor hyped by Trump who claims sexual dreams about demons cause many health problems.

Lauren Boebert: "Ted,,…is it true that the polio vaccine was invented by Marco Polio?" pic.twitter.com/CNKbV0xq68

— Roshan Rinaldi (@Roshan_Rinaldi) June 23, 2021

Boebert herself has cast doubts on the vaccines and masks and has pushed back against mandatory vaccinations.

Wrong. The real tragedy with COVID was that people were so afraid to change how they live, that they died. pic.twitter.com/ZVl1ttEr0E

— Hil.i.am (@hilaryluros) June 16, 2021

CDC investigates new delta variant in Mesa County

KKCO-TV 25 June, 2021 - 09:36pm

State epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy was at Mesa County Public Health as well earlier this week to help in the investigation. We are still awaiting the results from the CDC investigation.

The delta variant, originally identified in India, is still so new, so not much is known yet about it. A team from the CDC arrived in Mesa County this week to investigate the ‘how and why’ behind the rapid spread in Western Colorado.

Mesa County saw the first delta variant case in early May and is ranked number one in highest confirmed cases of the delta variant throughout the state of Colorado.

“As of today we’ve seen 314 cases of the delta variant here in Mesa County,” said Mesa County Public Health Epidemiology Program Manager Heidi Dragoo. “Our peak week for activity so far was the very last week of May where we had 75 cases reported during that week. We know activity is on the rise so we’re seeing a lot of transmission right now of this delta variant in our county.”

Mesa County Public Health tells us Our community is seeing a very high number of hospitalizations, likely from the delta variant. As the variant has been proven to be more contagious and cause more severe symptoms than the original COVID-19 variant.

“We’re seeing a lot of activity due to the delta variant here in Mesa County,” said Dragoo “We are actually the county with the most delta variant activity in the state of Colorado. El Paso County is right behind us. Colorado as a state is also seeing the second highest delta variant activity, I believe after the state of Missouri. So we know our state activity is largely driven by the activity we’re seeing here in Mesa.”

According to a new study done in Scotland, the Pfizer vaccine is about 79% effective against the delta variant. While the Pfizer vaccine is widely known as 95% effective against the original strain.

“A new study out of Scotland has found that the delta variant carries nearly double the risk of hospitalizations when we compare the delta variant and our original COVID-19 variant,” said Mesa County Public Health Communication Coordinator Stefany Busch. “We know the transmissibility or how contagious the delta variant is is a little over 50% more, so that’s why we’re seeing it. It’s in our community and it’s rapidly spreading.”

According to Mesa County Public Health, only 40% of Mesa County residents are fully vaccinated. Epidemiology experts believe the likely cause behind the high surge in our county is a combination of low vaccination rates, paired with a very transmissible variant.

According to the CDC, Around 90% of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Colorado are unvaccinated

“One thing we know about the delta variant is it tends to cause people to have more symptoms of COVID and to potentially have more severe illness. In looking at our recent data we know that about 90% of our COVID cases that tested positive for the delta variant had not been vaccinated,” said Dragoo. “So we know that the vaccine is still our best tool and best defense against severe illness due to COVID.”

Mesa County Public Health says the greatest defense we have against the new delta variant is vaccination. They’re urging everyone in Mesa County to get vaccinated now that it’s so widely available.

To locate a vaccination clinic near you in Mesa County, visit https://health.mesacounty.us/vaccine-provider-list-mesa-county or call 1-800-232-0233.

Country music festival in Lauren Boebert’s vaccine-resistant district creating ‘perfect storm’ for COVID-19 explosion

Raw Story 25 June, 2021 - 08:32am

The three-day Country Jam music festival that kicked off Thursday is expected to draw at least 50,000 people to Mesa County, where health officials have been scrambling to contain a new outbreak of COVID-19 among vaccine-hesitant residents in the deeply conservative region, reported The Daily Beast.

"I've never seen anything like this in my 20 years in health care," said Dr. Thomas Tobin, the chief medical examiner in Community Hospital in Grand Junction. "Pretty much everyone that's coming into the hospital is unvaccinated. Some of those people swear they don't believe in COVID all the way up to when they're in their hospital room, strapped to machines."

The county, where Donald Trump won more than 62 percent of the vote and Boebert won nearly 62 percent, is approaching nearly 300 cases of the Delta variant that's resulting in more hospitalizations and deaths, even as infection rates plummet in areas of the U.S. with higher rates of vaccination -- which tended to back President Joe Biden.

"Vaccine hesitancy is making the Delta variant a bigger problem than it needed to be, so we will see the variant spread rapidly in an unvaccinated population," said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. "[This variant is] 50 to 60 times more contagious than the Alpha variant, so why roll the dice?"

More than half the state's 534 cases of the Delta variant are in Mesa County, where only 40 percent of people are fully vaccinated and 44 percent have gotten at least one dose, and hospitals are already nearing capacity.

"Our COVID-19 numbers are getting close to what we saw in November and December, when we had hit our apex, and the primary reason is people not getting vaccinated," Tobin said. "We are frustrated, we're tired, and it's upsetting to look around our state and the country and see other places having to drop COVID-19 numbers while we are surging."

COVID-19 conspiracy theories and anti-government sentiment are prevalent in the county, which earlier this month hosted a seminar spreading coronavirus disinformation organized by Boebert's campaign manager Sherronna Bishop, featuring a Nigerian doctor hyped by Trump who claims sexual dreams about demons cause many health problems.

Boebert herself has cast doubts on the vaccines and masks, and has pushed back against mandatory inoculations.

"Every time we think we're getting out head above water, we're back in the trenches, back to where we were months ago," Tobin said. "We're treading water, hoping that a life vest will be thrown and it doesn't come."

That finding, through joint investigative reporting by the South Florida Sun Sentinel and the Pulitzer Center, revealed the stunning degree to which police were using surveillance on protesters. That included protests in Boca Raton in which "surprising images of solidarity" had shown police officers in riot gear taking a knee with cheering protesters.

"Behind the scenes, however, police photographed protesters," the Sun-Sentinel reported Saturday. "And they ran protest-related images through a vast and unregulated facial recognition database, records show. That's like going through a crowd and inspecting people's driver's licenses, which would almost certainly be prohibited as an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment."

"In one case, records show, police requested matching images and identifying information for a "possible protest organizer" as well as their various "associates." In another, police ran nearly 20 searches linked to "Intelligence," a controversial use of the technology before a crime has even been committed.

"Police sometimes use facial recognition technology to track down violent and lawbreaking protesters, as Miami police did with one woman accused of hurling rocks at officers during a protest last summer. But legal experts say police go too far when they seek facial recognition matches of people assembling peacefully to make their voices heard, and it's especially troubling when they are protesting for police reform."

The Sun-Sentinel findings did not sit well with privacy experts.

"It's horrifying. To find searches run specifically for protests, which is a clearly protected First Amendment right," said Clare Garvie, a senior associate at Georgetown University's Center on Privacy & Technology, noting such usage has been rarely documented. "Particularly in protests against police activity, there's the fear that police are going to target and retaliate against those individuals."

The report included denials from law-enforcement officials that the technology was being misused: "The Broward Sheriff's Office and other agencies emphasized that a match alone would not be enough reason for an arrest." But it added this:

"Nonetheless, use of the technology has also proven fraught. Bad facial recognition matches have been implicated in at least three wrongful arrests across the country, all involving Black men. Studies have shown racial bias in facial recognition technology, including high error rates in identifying people of color and misidentifying Black women nearly 35 percent of the time. The paradox: people who march against police brutality and over-policing of Black communities are being surveilled by a technology shown to harbor racial bias.

"Experts have long cautioned that police use of facial recognition could have a chilling effect on free speech, leading people to censor themselves or avoid protests. Even the undisclosed pulling of photos on social media for facial recognition raises alarms about police targeting individuals unnecessarily, posing a surveillance risk as a "tool of social control."

"Chad Marlow, a senior policy counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union, said it was one thing to run facial scans of someone who "had written a manifesto that they planned to set up a bomb in a big crowd," and it was quite another to scan protesters overall.

"People could end up on a watch list, with their social media monitored going forward," Marlow said." "There's no reason police should zero in and identify people because, God forbid, they are ... very vocal advocates."

You can read the full Sun-Sentinel report here.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) played the victim during a campaign speech at a Trump campaign rally in Ohio.

She first polled the crowd on who is there president to "make sure she was talking to smart people." The crowd shouted "Trump" in reply.

She complained about investigations into Trump, the "dirty, rotten media," Democrats, and how she is the new "bad guy" in Washington, DC.

"I didn't go to Washington, DC to make friends," she said of being stripped of committee assignments for her reckless rhetoric.

She went on to list reasons why she is so toxic, but did not list her support of the QAnon conspiracy theory, her offensive comments on the Holocaust, or her efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.

And she once again lied that "Democrats stole the election" and called Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez a "communist" and suggested she should be imprisoned.

Donald Trump on Saturday traveled to Ohio to give a campaign speech in what is being described as his "revenge rally."

One conspiracy believing Trump fan appeared to drive 500 miles for the event.

"While Trump has made speeches at Republican events since his election defeat by Democratic President Joe Biden, the rally in a state he carried in the 2020 election marks a return to the kind of freewheeling mass gatherings that have been critical to retaining the support of his base," Reuters noted. "It also marks the start of his public events lashing out at elected Republicans who he views as having crossed him. He will campaign for former White House aide Max Miller, who has launched a primary challenge against Representative Anthony Gonzalez, one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump on a charge of inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by his supporters that left five dead including a Capitol Police officer."

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Boebert country is facing a possible COVID-19 disaster: report

AlterNet 25 June, 2021 - 07:22am

"For the last seven weeks," Melendez reports, "health officials in Mesa County, Colorado, have been scrambling to contain the highly transmissible Delta variant of the novel coronavirus. But now, as a huge music festival kicks off, time may be up. As the first location in Colorado to positively identify the presence of the variant deemed potentially more deadly and at least 50% more contagious on May 5, the county, nestled at the state's border with Utah, only had five cases. Within a month, with the vaccination rate in the area low, the variant positivity rate soared 2500%."

Melendez adds, "And health-care officials believe that number will only go higher — especially with the start of Country Jam, the state's largest three-day music festival that has already sold 50,000 tickets. The potential disaster site pitted vaccine holdouts against an extra-contagious variant of COVID-19 — one that may make people sicker, faster — in a local encapsulation of a phenomenon experts fear will play out in anti-vaxxer bastions nationwide."

Tobin told the Beast, "I've never seen anything like this in my 20 years in health care. Pretty much everyone that's coming into the hospital is unvaccinated. Some of those people swear they don't believe in COVID all the way up to when they're in their hospital room, strapped to machines. And now with Country Jam? From a medical standpoint, the question is how much worse is it going to get for us here in Mesa."

Amanda Mayle, a spokesperson for the Mesa County Health Department, told the Beast, "Right now, we are seeing more Delta variant [cases] in our community. So as of right now, the Delta variant is our dominant strain."

According to Dr. Amesh Adalja of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, anti-vaxxers are making the Delta variant much worse in the United States than it has to be.

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Low Vax Rates, the Delta Variant, and a Huge Music Festival Make for a ‘Perfect Storm’ in This Colorado County

Daily Beast 25 June, 2021 - 03:00am

As the first location in Colorado to positively identify the presence of the variant deemed potentially more deadly and at least 50 percent more contagious on May 5, the county, nestled at the state’s border with Utah, only had five cases. Within a month, with the vaccination rate in the area low, the variant positivity rate soared 2,500 percent.

And health-care officials believe that number will only go higher—especially with the start of Country Jam, the state’s largest three-day music festival that has already sold 50,000 tickets. The potential disaster site pitted vaccine holdouts against an extra-contagious variant of COVID-19—one that may make people sicker, faster—in a local encapsulation of a phenomenon experts fear will play out in anti-vaxxer bastions nationwide.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in my 20 years in health care,” Dr. Thomas Tobin, the chief medical examiner in Community Hospital in Grand Junction, told The Daily Beast, adding that his hospital is almost at capacity. “Pretty much everyone that’s coming into the hospital is unvaccinated. Some of those people swear they don’t believe in COVID all the way up to when they’re in their hospital room, strapped to machines.”

“And now with Country Jam? From a medical standpoint, the question is how much worse is it going to get for us here in Mesa.”

A spokesperson for the Mesa County Health Department told The Daily Beast that as of Thursday, the county was “approaching 300 cases” of the Delta variant—making it the dominant strain in the county and resulting in an uptick in hospitalization and deaths. And state officials believe that caseload, which accounts for about 54 percent of all Delta cases in Colorado, is only expected to worsen given the abundance of residents who have refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We are seeing the variant spreads more easily between people, and we know that because of this we don’t know about every case. So we suspect the actual number is greater, and growing at a more alarming pace than we have data for,” Mesa County Health Department spokesperson Amanda Mayle said.

“Right now, we are seeing more Delta variant [cases] in our community” instead of the Alpha variant first identified in the U.K., the spokesperson added. “So as of right now, the Delta variant is our dominant strain.”

The variant, first detected in India, has since made its way to at least 60 countries, and it currently comprises at least 10 percent of all COVID-19 cases in the United States. The highly transmissible variant can cause more severe illness, and may even carry double the risk of hospitalization compared to the Alpha variant. It can also cause several alarming symptoms, including hearing loss and gastric distress.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and a specialist in infectious diseases, stressed to The Daily Beast that the “only reason we are even talking about the Delta variant in the United States is because of the unvaccinated population.”

“Vaccine hesitancy is making the Delta variant a bigger problem than it needed to be so we will see the variant spread rapidly in an unvaccinated population,” Adalja said, adding that while the surge will be different than what the country saw last year, we will continue to see an increase in hospitalization in areas where people still refuse to get the jab.

Adalja added that this variant is “50 to 60 times more contagious than the Alpha variant, so why roll the dice.”

In Grand Junction, Mesa’s county seat, there are only two hospitals trying to contain the influx of hospital patients. Tobin said that both were nearing capacity, a reality that the chief medical examiner said was frustrating his staff “because at this point this is all preventable.”

“Our COVID-19 numbers are getting close to what we saw in November and December—when we had hit our apex. And the primary reason is people not getting vaccinated,” Tobin said. “We are frustrated, we’re tired, and it’s upsetting to look around our state and the country and see other places having to drop COVID-19 numbers while we are surging.”

“Every time we think we’re getting out head above water, we’re back in the trenches, back to where we were months ago. We’re treading water, hoping that a life vest will be thrown and it doesn’t come.”

Mayle said that despite the alarming rise in infections, the county’s vaccination rate is “lagging behind other parts of Colorado.” To date, only about 40 percent of the county’s 154,210 population is fully inoculated, and 44 percent has gotten at least one vaccine shot.

“We are steadily increasing our vaccination rate because we want more people to be vaccinated. But there are parts of Colorado that are doing better,” she said.

The Mesa County Health Department added that there are several reasons for vaccine hesitancy in the county, including concerns about missing work from vaccination side effects, the long-term effects of the jab, and its overall effectiveness.

Nicole Inman, a 45-year-old archaeologist and historian who lives in Mesa County, can easily list the litany of excuses for why those close to her won’t get vaccinated despite the “extremely concerning” Delta variant.

“It is just the flu. The vaccine is experimental. Just let your immune system do its job. The government is trying to control us. It is insanity,” Marie, who is vaccinated, told The Daily Beast, adding that strong opposition is also “primarily anti-government sentiment.”

One of her biggest concerns is what she describes as a “perfect storm” of low vaccination rates—plus the upcoming holiday weekend and Country Jam.

The festival, which in 2017 boasted 92,000 attendees, has returned to Mesa County for the first time since 2019 and has garnered impressive headline artists—including Luke Comes, Toby Eith, and Carrie Underwood. On its official website, Country Jam has urged concert-goers to get vaccines or tested for COVID-19 prior to the event.

Noting Mesa County’s current COVID-19 surge, the festival also has asked that masks be worn at all times and for three feet of social distancing to be maintained.

Mayle added that the state mobile vaccine bus will also be at the three-day festival and that they are working with “festival organizers to ensure concert-goers know the risks associated with large events and there has been direct messaging to participants about the spread of the Delta variant in our community.”

“Safety messages will be broadcast throughout the venue. Residents who are not feeling well are advised to stay home, and all concert-goers will be urged on-site to exercise caution and take prevention measures; especially in non-ventilated areas where large crowds gather—places like food and beverage lines and restrooms,” Mayle said. The festival did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.

“I am not a health professional, but it seems as if [the concert] is a great opportunity for the Delta variant to spread across the country, which is certain to begin another wave of illness,” Inman said.

She added that while the concert is held in a large open agricultural field, those attending the event will need lodging and food.

“I just hope that those who hesitated before the variant will feel more motivated to be vaccinated,” she said. “All of the people traveling here, picking up the variant, will, I assume, then expose their family/friends at a July 4 celebration.”

How many vaccinated Coloradans have gotten COVID?

9News.com KUSA 24 June, 2021 - 07:01pm

DENVER — Like the flu, it’s uncommon but not impossible for a vaccinated person to test positive for COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said breakthrough cases are expected, as no vaccine is 100% effective. In Colorado and across the country, however, there are not many of these cases based on current statistics.

As of June 23, the Colorado Dept. of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) recorded 3,319 breakthrough COVID cases. With more than 49% of eligible Coloradans fully vaccinated against COVID, the number of breakthrough cases equals about .12%.

Per the CDC, evidence suggests that vaccinations can reduce the severity of COVID and lessen the chance of hospitalization. CDPHE reports since Jan. 15, 265 people with breakthrough cases have been hospitalized out of the 11,000 hospitalizations since then.

The state said there have been 47 deaths among those vaccinated.

CDPHE emphasizes that those hospitalization and death numbers are among cases of COVID-19. That means those patients did not necessarily die from or get hospitalized because of COVID, but they tested positive for COVID when they died or were hospitalized.

Nationwide, the CDC reports more than 144 million Americans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and 3,729 people with a breakthrough case were hospitalized or died.

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CDC investigating delta variant in Mesa County as it gains growing foothold in Colorado

The Denver Post 24 June, 2021 - 03:26pm

COVID-19 outbreaks are growing in Mesa County nursing homes and more people who’ve been at least partly vaccinated are getting sick enough across Colorado to be hospitalized as the more-contagious delta variant of the virus continues to spread.

While the Western Slope has been hit hardest, the variant originally identified in India already is moving across the state, accounting for three-quarters of new COVID-19 cases where the subtype is known.

A team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention arrived in Mesa County this week to investigate the spread of the delta variant. In a news release, state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said the state had requested the help from the CDC to learn “how and why” the delta variant was spreading in western Colorado.

She noted that the state had called on the CDC because of high hospitalization rates, following several nursing home outbreaks that included “breakthrough” cases, where vaccinated people were infected.

Mesa County came close to running out of hospital beds in recent weeks.

The CDC and the state health department are there to give Mesa County Public Health more resources to keep investigating, said Ginger Stringer, epidemiology response program manager at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

A team is going into long-term care facilities to see if the virus is behaving differently in recent outbreaks, which might require new strategies to keep it out, she said. Others are working on communicating the need to get vaccinated and to take precautions at large events.

“We have seen some really concerning trends,” Stringer said. “We don’t know if it’s abnormal, because we don’t know enough about the delta variant.”

CDC spokeswoman Jade Fulce said the agency sent an epidemiologist, an infection control specialist and a behavioral health scientist to help investigate the “potential for a high rate of vaccine breakthrough cases” in nursing homes, as well as the virus’s rapid spread. It’s too early to tell if Colorado’s situation fits a pattern for the delta variant, she said.

“Hence, we are providing onsite technical assistance,” she said.

During the week ending June 12, more than 90% of people hospitalized statewide with a confirmed case of COVID-19 — some of whom may have sought care for another reason — hadn’t received a dose of the vaccine, according to the state health department.

That shows the odds of getting sick are significantly lower after vaccination, but it also suggests a higher rate of severe breakthrough cases than the state was seeing a few weeks ago.

Fewer than 2% of Colorado’s confirmed COVID-19 cases between mid-January and early June were in people who were fully vaccinated, and most of those had mild symptoms that didn’t require hospitalization, according to the state health department.

Data from the United Kingdom suggests the Pfizer vaccine is slightly less effective against the delta variant than it was against previous versions of the virus, with significantly less protection for people who have only received one dose. Little data is available about the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, which aren’t widely used in the U.K.

The state also announced that nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in counties where the delta variant is spreading will have to test all unvaccinated residents and staff using a highly reliable test that looks for the virus’s genetic material twice weekly. Unvaccinated staff also will have to take a slightly less-accurate rapid test before beginning each shift.

One in seven currently active COVID-19 outbreaks in Colorado assisted living facilities and nursing homes is in Mesa County, far exceeding the area’s share of such facilities. The eight outbreaks in Mesa County involve 37 cases among residents, 47 staff cases and five deaths — more than one-fifth of all cases and more than half of deaths linked to long-term care facilities with current outbreaks.

The delta variant now accounts for the majority of cases in Colorado and has been found in 28 counties. It’s about 50% more contagious than the alpha variant, which previously dominated in Colorado and was itself more contagious than the original version of the virus. Early data from Scotland suggests people infected with delta were more likely to be hospitalized than those who had alpha, but scientists are still trying to verify that.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the state had identified 534 cases of the delta variant in Colorado, with more than half found in Mesa County. The state doesn’t run complex genetic analysis on every positive COVID-19 test, though, so the actual number of delta infections may be higher.

The counties with the most confirmed cases of the delta variant as of Tuesday were:

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s dashboard showed about 75% of statewide virus samples sequenced in the week of June 13 contained the delta variant.

Nationwide, the delta variant accounts for about one in five cases, according to The New York Times. A week ago, it was responsible for one in 10 cases across the country.

Herlihy, Gov. Jared Polis and other health officials also traveled to Grand Junction on Tuesday to meet with local leaders about the variant. One of the state’s vaccine buses set up at the Cattlemen’s Association Annual Convention, but it’s not clear how many people took the chance to get the shot.

Stringer said the best way to protect yourself is to get vaccinated, and to wear a mask and practice social distancing until you’re two weeks out from your last shot. People who have been vaccinated also might consider continuing precautions if they’re walking into a setting where they don’t know if others have had the shot, she said.

“I’m fully vaccinated, but when I travel, I’m wearing a mask,” she said.

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