COVID-19 Variant First Discovered In India Has Spread To Garfield County

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Interstate 70, temporarily closed by the Grizzly Creek fire, and the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs on Friday, Aug. 21, 2020. The Grizzly Creek wildfire started a few miles up Glenwood Canyon to the east at No Name. Prevailing winds pushed the fire eastward, but smoke still hangs in the air in Glenwood.

The COVID-19 variant first discovered in India has spread to Garfield County, health officials confirmed last week.

At least six people tested positive for the variant. Among those cases, five of them were unvaccinated. The variant’s presence was first discovered in Colorado in early May, when five people in Mesa County tested positive. Garfield County is the second county in the state to discover the variant. 

The news comes as Colorado begins to ramp up its vaccination efforts. Over 2.5 million Coloradans have received full immunization against the virus, but recent numbers show a decline in vaccine interest

“We have a window of opportunity to get ahead of this in Garfield County,” said Garfield County public health official Sara Brainard in a release. “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.”

According to state data, about 57 percent of Garfield County residents have received at least partial immunity against COVID-19. Health officials say there is strong evidence that all three vaccines approved for use in the United States — Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — offer good protection against variants such as the ones discovered in the United Kingdom and India.  

Colorado’s latest push to get more people vaccinated is holding weekly drawings of $1 million for vaccinated people. Anyone over the age of 12 is eligible to get vaccinated, however only the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for minors.