Nation marks tragic COVID-19 milestone amid local signs of hope

Spanish Peaks Regional Health Center in Walsenburg delivered its 1,000th COVID-19 vaccination on Monday, Feb. 22.

by Mark Craddock
OUR WORLD — Flags are flying at half-staff this week as the nation marks a grim milestone – more than a half-million Americans have died of COVID-19 in the nearly year-long pandemic. As of Wednesday morning, Johns Hopkins University put the number of dead at 502,698.

In that time, more than 5,800 Coloradans have died; 18 of them in Huerfano County and 11 in Las Animas County, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Meanwhile in Walsenburg, the Spanish Peaks Regional Health Center administered its 1,000th dose of COVID-19 vaccine Monday. The recipient not only got his second dose of the Moderna vaccine, he received a gift bag and a round of applause.
Thus is the ongoing bipolar nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021-style.
Case counts, hospitalizations and deaths are dropping precipitously after an unprecedented December-January spike, but the numbers still hover in the vicinity of the worst of the April and July 2020 surges. More than 90,000 new COVID-19 cases have been reported nationally since Tuesday, and the week has seen more than 1,000 deaths per day.
As public health officials continue to inject hope into a beleaguered population one vaccine at a time, and as the Food and Drug Administration came one step closer to approving a new one-shot vaccine, a massive winter storm brought vaccine distribution to its knees last week.

And epidemiologists are racing to keep only one or two steps behind a handful of COVID-19 mutants that are beginning to work their way through the population.

Here’s what the week held in our corner of the world:

Local case counts remain low
Huerfano County has logged only one new case of COVID-19 this week – a resident of the Veterans Community Living Center. A SPRHC spokesperson said the resident is asymptomatic but remains in isolation. The Veterans Center saw a COVID-19 outbreak in late 2020 in which a dozen residents died. SPRHC continues to test all residents and staff weekly.
Las Animas County has seen 22 new COVID-19 cases in the past week.

As of Monday, Huerfano County has a total case count of 313, with five active cases and 18 deaths, according to the Las Animas-Huerfano Counties District Health Depatment.

Las Animas County has a total case count of 1,001, with 40 active cases and 11 deaths.
According to the New Mexico Department of Health, Colfax County has a total case count of 696, with 45 deaths and 498 people recovered.

Vaccinations continue slow but steady
According to the CDPHE, 2,182 COVID vaccines had been administered in Huerfano County as of Tuesday morning, through the local health department and SPRHC.

In Las Animas County, 5,274 vaccines had been administered.
And in Colfax County, New Mexico, 3,344 vaccine doses have been administered, according to the New Mexico Department of Health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,  Colorado has received 1,417,245 doses of vaccine and have administered 1,233,466 doses. The CDC says New Mexico has received 660,415 doses and have administered 612, 496 doses.

Crisis standards of care deactivated
In a sign that the worst of the current COVID crisis is waning, The CDPHE reported this week that the state has deactivated its crisis standards of care for healthcare staffing and emergency medical services, effective Feb. 11. The crisis standards of care for PPE remains active, however.

The crisis standards of care is a collection of guidelines by the state to define how medical facilities should allocate scarce resources when need outstrips supply. The document in whole is a chilling glimpse into the worst of the worst case – when allocation of life-or-death resources may be decided by cold calculation — or random chance.

Colorado never implemented its crisis standards of care in total, but the state did enact those sections which allowed less-than-ideal protocols for EMS, hospital staffing and reuse of scarce PPE.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Colorado, I have been informed by healthcare practitioners and hospitals regarding the conditions in healthcare facilities and across the Emergency Medical Services system,” State Medical Officer Dr. Eric K. France wrote in his Feb. 11 order. “The number of cases of COVID-19 and the number of individual hospitalizations due to COVID-19 has been declining over several weeks. As such, and based on all the information available, I hereby deactivate the CSC for Healthcare Staffing and Emergency Medical Services.”