While some Colorado counties have seen new COVID-19 case spikes in recent weeks, Jeffco has so far avoided that fate. Instead, the county’s seven-day case incidence rate has been flatlined at …
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While some Colorado counties have seen new COVID-19 case spikes in recent weeks, Jeffco has so far avoided that fate.
Instead, the county’s seven-day case incidence rate has been flatlined at around 23 new cases per 100,000 county residents since mid-June after declining rapidly for the two months before that. Those current sustained case levels represent the lowest case levels Jeffco has seen in over a year.
“Jefferson County is doing quite well I am very pleased to say,” Jefferson County Public Executive Director Dr. Dawn Comstock told Colorado Community Media on July 9. “Compared to other regions of the country and most other areas of our state, Jeffco has higher vaccination coverage, low communitywide spread currently and low hospitalization rates — and that’s all very, very good news.”
But even as the county is celebrating those successes, Comstock said there are still things that come her up at night. Right now, one of those things is the Delta variant, which officials say accounts for 80% of the cases currently being sequenced at the state lab and is considered more much contagious than any previous variants and the original virus.
Comstock said officials have confirmed that there have been cases of Delta in Jeffco and that at least one unvaccinated Jeffco resident died after contracting the Delta variant.
“As low as our community transmission and hospitalization rates are, they haven’t continued to drop as quickly as I would’ve expected given our high vaccination rates and this is undoubtedly because of Delta,” said Comstock. “It’s because those individuals in our community who are still unvaccinated are more easily transmitting COVID among themselves now because Delta is so infectious.”
In a statement issued on July 8, the CDC said that while it is possible for fully unvaccinated people to still contract COVID-19, “people who are vaccinated are protected from severe diseases and death.” The statement went on to say that “virtually all COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are among those who are unvaccinated.”
Another concern for Comstock is the relatively low rate of vaccine uptake among the younger Jefferson County residents currently eligible for the vaccine. Comstock said that as of July 9, 72.3% of all Jeffco residents old enough to get a vaccine have received at least one, including about 65% of those over 25.
However, that number drops to 58% for those 16-19 and just 49.3% for those 12-15 (the youngest age group eligible to be vaccinated).
Comstock said there are several factors likely contributing to the lower rate of vaccination among the county’s youngest eligible residents, including that young people became eligible for the vaccine more recently and only a few weeks before Jeffco schools closed and administering vaccines to those younger residents became more difficult.
But “hesitancy” among parents toward getting younger children vaccinated is also clearly part of the equation. However, Comstock said that concern is one she is really hoping can be done away with as “the evidence is quite definitive that these vaccines are incredibly safe and incredibly effective across the age range.”
Comstock also said that while it is true most children have relatively mild cases of the illness if they are infected, there are some who do have more severe cases and end up hospitalized.
“More importantly, however, those younger children when they become infected they carry the virus to others in our community,” she said. “The best way to ensure that everyone in our community is as safe and healthy as possible is to continue to ask everyone to stand together, help each other out, get vaccinated and get their children vaccinated.”
Comstock said that low rate of vaccination is particularly concerning given that the start of school in the Jefferson County school district is just over a month away. On July 9, the CDC issued guidance stating that safely returning to in-person instruction in fall 2021 is a priority. The guidance also stated that achieving high levels of vaccination among eligible students, teachers, staff and household members is “one of the most critical strategies to help schools safely resume fall operations.”
Given that guidance, Comstock said she wants to encourage parents to get their eligible kids vaccinated as soon as possible so that they can be fully vaccinated at the start of the year (younger kids can only receive the Pfizer vaccine which requires two weeks after the second vaccination for someone to be considered fully vaccinated).
“Please, please don’t wait until right before the school year starts,” Comstock said. “Making sure that children and everyone else who is eligible get vaccinated is the best way we can ensure children can return to in-person learning and extracurricular activities safely without disruption this fall.”
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