90% of local educators seeking vaccines have received them, public health says

Walsenburg’s Peakview School has been in and out of in-classroom teaching since September. As of Feb. 8, teachers became eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

by Mark Craddock
OUR WORLD — During a week when a blast of arctic air turned much of the nation into an icebox which slowed vaccine delivery to a glacial pace; when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued somewhat controversial new guidelines to promote in-school education before teachers are universally vaccinated, there is some good news coming from the Las Animas-Huerfano Counties District Health Department.

Director Kim Gonzales said this week that 90% of educators in the two-county region who wanted vaccines have now received their first dose.

“We started vaccinating educators Feb. 8,” Gonzales said. “We asked all the school districts to get a list of employees who wanted to receive a vaccine and got them scheduled in. There may be a handful left.” She said the educators should receive their second doses the second week in March.

In spite of this week’s weather-induced interruptions, the slow and steady march to vaccinate the population continues. The next challenge, Gonzales said, is to mount a push to vaccinate the much larger group of people age 65 and up – and to heed Gov. Jared Polis’ goal of vaccinating at least 70% of those age 70 and up.

And she is asking for the public’s help.
“If people know somebody in the region age 65 and up, please help them reach out to the health department,” she said. “We’re working with different partnering agencies for the homebound, but we’re hoping to have friends and families help their loved ones through the process.”

Those seeking an appointment to receive the vaccine should call the health department’s Walsenburg office at (719) 738-2650, the Trinidad office at (719) 846-2213, or fill out the department’s online form at https://form.jotform.com/210086599112051.

In addition, Huerfano County residents can call Spanish Peaks Regional Health Center and Las Animas County residents can reach out to Mt. San Rafael Hospital, Salud Family Health Centers, or the pharmacies at Safeway and Walmart in Trinidad to make an appointment.

With each agency receiving doses as they can through state and federal sources during the early roll-out, calculating the total number of vaccines received and administered locally is still inexact, Gonzales said.
She said Las Animas County has received 2,000 doses and Huerfano County 1,600 doses via the health department, and SPRHC has administered about 700, Mt. San Rafael about 1,100 and Salud about 1,400 doses in total.

Trapper Collova, spokesperson for SPRHC, broke down that facility’s numbers further on Tuesday.  Some 176 staff members have received their first vaccine dose and 162 have received the second dose. Among Veterans Community Living Center residents, 68 have received the first dose and 61 have received the second dose. SPRHC has vaccinated 484 community members, mostly age 70 and older, but Collova did not know how many of those were first or second doses.

Weather impacts vaccine delivery  
On Tuesday, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported that winter storms affecting a distribution hub in Tennessee have delayed shipment of some 133,000 doses of vaccine the state planned to receive this week.

“Colorado, along with all other jurisdictions and federal entities and programs were impacted by the delay because the weather issues were occurring at the hubs,” CDPHE said in a press release. “The state expects more information about when we will receive the vaccine as the weather clears and shipping operations resume.”

Case counts continue slow climb
As of Tuesday, Huerfano County has a total case count of 312 with eight active cases and 18 deaths. Las Animas County has a total case count of 978 with 43 active cases and 11 deaths.
The New Mexico Department of Health reports that Colfax County has a total case count of 689, with 45 deaths.