Fight against COVID continues

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Vaccine rollout guidance changes

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  • Gunnison Mayor Jim Gelwicks received his first dose of COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday.
    Gunnison Mayor Jim Gelwicks received his first dose of COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday.

Vaccines continue to be administered in Gunnison County with more than 1,000 residents having received the first dose. But guidance on who is in line to receive the vaccine continues to change, causing confusion valley-wide.

According to Recovery Coordinator Loren Ahonen, Gunnison County has administered more than 1,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine as of this week, or more than 5% of the county’s population.

Gunnison County is still in phase 1A which includes highrisk health care workers and health care workers and residents in long term care facilities. The next phase, 1B includes other frontline health care workers such as first responders and police.

The 1B phase also includes people over the age of 70, but that’s based on new guidance from the state.

“It did change significantly from where it was before Ahonen said during a business meeting this week.

The state’s vaccine guidance were changed on Dec. 30 to move forward anyone who is 70 years and older and the essential workforce.

The state also informed public health officials that the essential workforce cannot be vaccinated without explicit permission from the state. Those 70 years and older must be prioritized.

This contradicts the CDC’s guidance which recommends anyone 75 or older and in essential workforce would be in the first phase.

Based on CDC guidance, here in Gunnison County, some in the essential workforce had already begun receiving the vaccine. But public officials said they have adjusted the phase to include older at-risk adults over 70.

Gunnison local Sam Shelafo wasn’t expecting to receive the vaccine as soon as she did, but was able to get on the list for her work regularly volunteering with the Gunnison Country Food Pantry.

“I’m exposed to a lot volunteering throughout the week,” Shelafo said.

Shelafo said she was listed as a primary volunteer for the nonprofit under the available form. She then received an email and text alert the night prior to an available appointment. The process was easy to understand, and she was vaccinated within 30 minutes at the appointment the next day.

“The process itself was well-put together,” Shelafo said.

Here in Gunnison County, the vaccine has been administered to the majority of frontline health care workers. Remaining health care workers and older adults are now eligible to be vaccinated.

The county has additionally launched a vaccine interest form that allows community members and businesses the ability to report the number of potential people interested in receiving the vaccine.

Those figures will help better inform how many doses are needed in the coming months, said Ahonen.

The changing guidance from the CDC and the state has allowed for other essential workers in Gunnison County to get in line.

Gunnison County remains at Level Blue on the county Coronameter but continues to be out of compliance with two of seven county public health indicators.

There have been 823 positive COVID-19 cases in Gunnison County since the start of the pandemic 8,739 negative, and 93 pending tests as of Jan. 4.

On average, the county has reported an estimated 40 positive cases each week, Ahonen said.

“The virus is still prevalent in our community;’ Ahonen said.

Through Jan. 5, 120,510 Coloradans had received their first shot, or approximately 2.6 percent of the state’s adult population.

“It’s on my mind every single day that I want that second shot,” Shelafo said. “It does give a little peace of mind!’

(Kate Gienapp can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or kate@gunnisontimes.com.)