Public Health issues COVID India variant update

May 28, 2021

COVID testing and gene sequencing have confirmed the B.1.617.2 India variant has now infected at least six people in Garfield County. This COVID-19 India variant has been circulating in neighboring Mesa County and took the life of a 10-19 year old, announced earlier this week.

“It’s very concerning that we are seeing these cases of the India variant impacting individuals in the western parts of our county,” said Carrie Godes, Garfield County public health information officer. “With so many things trending in the right direction, this is the public health COVID update we don’t want to give. There is so much reason for optimism and hope, with lower numbers of infections and great turnout for vaccines. With summer holiday gatherings and vacations all around the corner, we have to jump on this now.”

Of the six confirmed cases of the India variant, five were unvaccinated. New variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 are spreading in the United States and in other parts of the world. Current data suggest that COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the United States offer protection against most variants currently spreading in the United States. However, some variants might cause illness in some people even after they are fully vaccinated.

People who are fully vaccinated have significantly more protection against getting any form of the COVID-19 virus, and if they do become infected, their symptoms are generally lessened. The vaccines also greatly reduce the risk of hospitalization or death.

“We have a window of opportunity to get ahead of this in Garfield County,” said Sara Brainard, Public Health nurse manager. “It is new. It is not our most widely circulating strain right now, and we don’t want it to become any more dominant. If it is allowed to circulate and mutate in our unvaccinated population it will become a variant of concern here. Our best defense is the vaccine. We also must continue to have anyone who is sick follow isolation protocols to keep others safe.”

Vaccinated individuals who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 do not need to quarantine unless they become symptomatic. Anyone with COVID symptoms must isolate for at least 10 days past when symptoms started, and have no fever for 24 hours. Symptoms vary, but may include fever, cough, shortness of breath, head and body aches, diarrhea among others. Unvaccinated individuals have a much greater risk of hospitalization due to complications from the illness. A COVID-related hospital stay can cost upwards of $30,000.

“We still have a staff of contact tracers working to control COVID, along with other viruses, like the recent norovirus, circulating in the community,” continued Brainard. “The economic impacts can hit families really hard. If you haven’t been vaccinated, and one person in the home tests positive, everyone has to stay home. Kids will have to stay home from summer camps and sports. Adults lose wages because they can’t go to work. Getting that vaccine means you don’t have to stop life because you were exposed. What we have learned in the last year is that staying home when sick for the full recommended period, hand washing, masks, and distance still work.”

To find vaccination sites in Garfield County, visit or call 970-665-6371.

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