covid chart

This chart shows the county’s biweekly COVID-19 positive cases. (Image courtesy of San Miguel County)

The first of the second round of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine shots were given Wednesday, according to San Miguel County Public Health Director Grace Franklin, bringing the initial frontline health care and emergency services workers are one step closer to being fully vaccinated.

“It’s pretty darn exciting. We’re really making in roads for our county and doing really well,” she said. 

Franklin added recipients can expect to be inoculated approximately six weeks after receiving the first vaccination shot, as there is a brief period after the second and final shot before the body is immune.

The county is also continuing to vaccinate residents who are 70 years of age or older with the first dose. Franklin said she expects all elderly residents to receive their initial shot within the next couple of weeks, given the current supplies.

Public health and the Telluride Regional Medical Center have been receiving 100 doses each since the beginning of the rollout, but that 200-dose allocation may vary, depending on the national supply chain.

“We’ve had a lot of concerns with our inventory and our supply. It’s fascinating. The national stockpile is pretty limited, which then trickles down to the state level, and is magnified on the county and local level here,” Franklin said. “We really have been getting small allocations of the vaccine, but we have a system that is nimble to scale up. It’s able to manage these smaller doses.”

Governor Jared Polis announced last week that vaccine distribution centers are to target administration of the first vaccine dose to 70 percent of residents 70 or older by the end of February. Once that milestone is reached, other groups under Phase 1B can receive the vaccine, including people who work in hospitality, or food and beverage. 

Polis also reminded all distribution sites across the state that equity of vaccination is a priority, and that they are free and do not require proof of citizenship, according to a county news release.

“Whether you are a U.S. citizen or not, we are all in this together. If you would like a vaccine, you will be able to get one according to what vaccine phase you are in. An ID should not be required for access to the vaccine,” stated a letter from Scott Bookman, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s administrative director of laboratory services.

As of press time Wednesday afternoon, 799 first doses had been administered throughout the county.

Free testing also continues, as the county conducted 493 last week. Monday and Tuesday were the first days of the state’s rapid response testing at the intercept lot in Lawson Hill. State testing was also available in Norwood and the Telluride Regional Airport this week. In total, 9,710 have been administered.

As of press time, there were 546 local positive cases, including 38 active. The county’s positivity rate was 6.2 percent and the incidence rate was 795 per 100,000 people.

“That incidence rate is still in that severe level and the positivity rate is doing OK,” Franklin said. 

She added that the disease burden in the West Central Health Partnership — San Miguel, Hinsdale, Delta, Gunnison, Mineral, Ouray and Montrose counties — is lower than the state level, though still significant. 

“They expect that one in every 316 people in West Central Health Partnership are infected with this virus,” she said, which is 7.4 percent of the total population.

The county is still in Level Orange, according to the state’s COVID-19 scale, and that’s not going to change anytime soon, Franklin explained, despite any whispers that one may hear throughout the community.

“I’ve been hearing a lot of questions recently about our timeline for Level Orange, I’ve heard rumors saying, ‘Hey, we’re moving to Level Red in a couple weeks’ or ‘We’re maintaining Level Orange through the spring and summer no mater what our metrics say,’” she said, adding officials are constantly monitoring the numbers that go onto that decision. “ …  There’s really no shifting from that unless given guidance from the state. … If people are hearing chatter, please ensure them that this is based off the metrics. We want to be able to move nimbly between the appropriate levels for our disease burden to contain the spread as well as balance all of the other aspects of our lives.”

For the most up-to-date COVID information, visit the county’s dashboard at sanmiguelco.maps.arcgis.com.