public health

State and county public health officials have four overarching goals as they navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. San Miguel County Public Health Director Grace Franklin shared this graphic at last week’s county commissioners meeting. (Courtesy photo)

At last week’s meeting of the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), public health director Grace Franklin started her weekly update with a punch list of goals aimed at controlling the COVID-19 pandemic. Those goals include keeping students in the classroom, keeping COVID-related hospitalizations low through vaccinations, maintaining economic stability and transitioning to a life post-pandemic. The public health community is not only looking at getting through winter, Franklin said, but are casting ahead to a future in which the pandemic is no long the source of the current emergency responses.

“The last big goal is really the North Star,” Franklin said. “How do we transition to pre-pandemic conditions and really move to less of an emergency response and more of a traditional health care and public health response where it's much smaller and doesn't really fluctuate to the extent that we've seen COVID due to the scale and number of hospitalizations. That will be met through ongoing immunity, both through infections and vaccines.”

Pandemic response and management has been unrelenting since March 2020, and with the Delta variant of the coronavirus roaring through unvaccinated populations, as well as breaking through (to a far lesser degree) vaccinated individuals, officials have had their hands full. Vaccine clinics have been ramped up where both initial vaccines and booster shots are being doled. In addition to wrestling the economic, health care and social fallout wreaked by COVID, officials are also stressing the importance of guarding against more common foes — the rhinovirus (aka the common cold) and seasonal flu. In a recent county news release, the public health department reported that with the shortening days and colder temperatures, common cold, flu and strep infections are on the rise, along with COVID.

“The pandemic has certainly taken a toll on physical, mental and emotional health for many of us,” Franklin said in the release. “As we commit to regaining a sense of normalcy, caring for ourselves is essential. Our well-being relies on many things like getting vaccinated as well as paying special attention to eating habits, exercise and personal health.”

In other words, take care of yourself. Public health recommends preparing a personal winter season health and wellness plan. Officials strongly urge county residents and visitors to get vaccinated for not only COVID, but the flu. Vaccine clinics are offering flu shots in addition to the COVID vaccines. For a schedule for upcoming vaccine clinics, visit sanmiguelcountyco.gov.

For an active and outdoor-loving population, the advice to get moving should be easy to act upon. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise that adults get 150 minutes of exercise weekly, though some physical activity is better than none.

When the body rests, it heals and recharges, so having a strict bedtime routine is key. According to the news release, getting enough sleep is not a luxury — it is something people need for good health.

Additionally, eating healthy, nutritious food serves to boost immunity, support muscles, strengthen bones and may contribute to one’s longevity.

Another health tip from public health is to log off from electronic devices. Minimizing screen time and stepping away from the news and social media goes far to ease anxiety and be more in the moment with others. Connectivity with others is natural to humankind and maintaining health relationships with others is as much a part of one’s self-care as wearing a mask. And for oneself, taking breaks to unwind through yoga, music, gardening, reading a book or finding a new hobby can help support a healthy mindset and, in turn, a healthy life, according to public health experts.

Also in county public health news, with boosters now recommended and opened up to anyone over 18 years of age, as well as approval of the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5-11, vaccine clinics are numerous. Public health clinics now through Dec. 1 are: Pfizer and Moderna, Thursday, from 2:30-3:15 p.m., Lone Cone Library in Norwood; pediatric Pfizer clinic for 5-to 11-year-olds, Thursday, from 3:45-4:30 p.m., Lone Cone Library in Norwood; Moderna: Friday, from 3:30-5:30 p.m., Telluride Intermediate School gym; flu shots Tuesday from 1-3 p.m., Public Health Department, 333 W. Colorado Ave. 3rd Floor, Telluride; Egnar vaccine clinic, Wednesday, Dec. 1, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Egnar Fire Station.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s mobile clinics return the first week in December. Look for the bus Wednesday, Dec. 1, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Carhenge parking lot, and then in Norwood at the Pig Palace at the county fairgrounds from 3-6 p.m. It will be at the Blue Mesa parking lot in Mountain Village Dec. 2 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The importance of getting vaccinated is being stressed by the state’s top officials as Colorado experiences a COVID surge that threatens to fill its hospitals to capacity.

“The health and safety of Coloradans has been my top priority throughout this global pandemic. We want to ensure that Coloradans have every tool they need to protect themselves from this deadly virus and to help reduce the stress on our hospitals and healthcare workers. Every Coloradan is now eligible to get the booster so they can protect themselves and their families,” Governor Jared Polis said. “I was relieved to get the booster two weeks ago, and strongly encourage you to get it, too.”

The BOCC meets today (Wednesday) at 9:30 a.m. with the weekly public health update scheduled for 12:45 p.m.

For complete information on testing, clinics and COVID metrics used by state and county officials, go to sanmiguelcountyco.gov.