Huerfano County is now mask-optional, but COVID variants are lurking in the shadows

by Mark Craddock
OUR WORLD — In Huerfano County, COVID vaccinations are up, case counts are down, and public mask wearing is now largely optional. But new COVID variants are lurking in the shadows.

On April 2, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announced a new executive order allowing people in level-green counties – including Huerfano County — to abandon their face coverings in most indoor places.
But many public health officials emphasize that the COVID danger is still palpable and urged citizens to continue voluntary masking and social distancing until vaccinations become more ubiquitous.

The governor’s order requires people who live in counties that are under level-green restrictions on the state’s COVID dial to wear masks only in K-12 schools, child-care facilities, indoor children’s camps, public-facing state facilities, congregate care facilities, jails and healthcare settings.

Huerfano County was designated level green on the COVID dial on March 25, while Las Animas County was designated level blue.

In the past week, the local public health department logged three new cases of COVID-19 in Herfano County and 10 new cases in Las Animas County.

Alarmingly, three different COVID “variants of concern” have been identified in Huerfnao County’s population: two cases of the B.1.1.7 (UK) variant; the B.1.429 (California) variant; and the P.2 (Brazilian) variant, according to the Las Animas-Huerfano Counties District Health Department.
Last week, some 300 Huerfano County residents were vaccinated at a joint Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment/local health department clinic at the community center in Walsenburg, and several hundred more were vaccinated at a similar clinic in Trinidad. On Monday, local health workers vaccinated 46 more people at pop-up clinics in La Veta and Gardner.  A drive-thru vaccine clinic in the Peakview parking lot in Walsenburg is scheduled April 10, 2021, from 12-3 pm, for people 16 and up.  Call 738-2650 for more info and to set an appointment.

As of Wednesday, 4,126 doses of vaccine have been administered in Huerfano County and 9,755 have been administered in Las Animas County.
As of April 5, Huerfano County has a total case count of 349, with 10 active cases and 17 deaths, according to the local health department. Las Animas County has a total case count of 1,054 with 12 active cases and 11 deaths.

According to the NMDH, Colfax County has a total case count of 724, with presently no active cases 46 deaths.
The executive order does allow local health departments and individual businesses to enforce more-strict masking guidelines, but Gonzales said that her office does not plan such a move, even as she urges local citizens to remain vigilant.

“The health department will be following CDPHE and the Governor’s Executive Masks Order,” she said Tuesday. “Now is not the time to let our guard down. We have three variants along with the original strain of covid in Huerfano County.  We need to get more people vaccinated and more immunity in the community.”