Another outbreak of COVID-19 has been identified in La Plata County, this one at south City Market in Durango’s Town Plaza, according to the Colorado Department of Health and Environment.
The City Market outbreak makes for the 10th active outbreak being monitored by San Juan Basin Public Health. Contact-tracing efforts by the health department have so far determined that nine City Market staff members have COVID-19. Of those cases, the majority of them occurred among unvaccinated individuals, said Chandler Griffin, spokesman for SJBPH.
Griffin said the grocery store is considered safe to visit, and that staff members who tested positive or had close contact with someone infected have been quarantined and isolated, respectively.
“I think that it increases the urgency among our team to do a thorough investigation and contact tracing,” Griffin said.
Other outbreaks being monitored by the CDPHE as of this week include: Bayfield Middle School (12 attendee cases), Cottonwood Rehab and Extended Care (one resident, two staff cases), Fort Lewis College women’s soccer team (10 attendee cases), Four Corners Health Care Center (seven staff cases), Ignacio Elementary School (five staff, 12 attendee cases), Mercy Regional Medical Center (56 staff cases), Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (18 staff cases), an undisclosed social gathering (seven attendee cases) and Sunshine Gardens West Assisted Living (one resident case, one staff case).
From Nov. 13 to Nov. 24, the local health department is aware of 408 new COVID-19 cases in La Plata County and 135 cases in Archuleta County.
The health department continues to do contract tracing, Griffin said, and the latest outbreak data emphasizes the importance of conducting quick and thorough investigations to track positive cases, quarantine or isolate patients as necessary, and reduce transmission of the delta variant in the community.
He said the pandemic still proves problematic for local businesses and essential workers. Although many businesses and employees have taken steps to make their workplaces as safe as possible, keeping up with COVID-19 and suppressing spread of the virus remains a “struggle” for many.
Mask use, vaccinations, booster shots and social distancing remain the public’s greatest tools in the fight against COVID-19, Griffin said. He said continuing to use masks in public, whether one is vaccinated or not, helps protect essential workers and keeps the community safe.
Griffin said the community should be using “layered protection” to guard against COVID-19, meaning wearing masks and getting vaccinated, staying home if feeling sick and getting tested if people think they have been exposed to someone with the virus.
“With the current surge driven by the delta variant, we’ve been talking about the benefits of layered protection quite a bit,” he said. “That means being fully vaccinated and getting a booster shot if eligible.”
All adults are eligible for boosters, and clinics have been set up across La Plata County to facilitate those.
The delta variant, which Griffin said is the culprit for most if not all of the current cases locally, has a higher transmission rate than the initial COVID-19 strain. Griffin said delta’s presence increases the need for layered protection.
“It might sound obvious, but if you have symptoms, it’s really important to stay home, limit your interactions, get tested and wait for that result,” he said.
He added that if someone feels ill with a fever, cough or sore throat, and tests negative for COVID-19, that person should still stay home.
“You may have the flu or another contagious respiratory virus,” he said.
Griffin said limiting other kinds of contagious respiratory illnesses will help strained hospitals and the local health care system.
Across the globe, a new COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.529, was detected in South Africa and reported to the World Health Organization on Wednesday. On Friday, the variant was named “omicron.”
Griffin said SJBPH doesn’t have much information about the omicron variant yet.
“What we’re hearing is that it has a high number of mutations,” he said.
The new variant has not been detected in La Plata County, but Griffin said other variants that emerged globally, such as delta, inevitably make their way into the community.
He said the health department will share more information about the omicron variant when the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are able to provide more details.
“I think for now, what we’ve seen is that the same layered precautions that have helped reduce transmission throughout the pandemic, such as masks and vaccination and testing, have also helped our community when new variants have emerged,” he said.
“There is high transmission in our community, and it is a high-risk time for community members, especially those who are unvaccinated,” he said.
Griffin urged again for residents to do “everything we can do” to protect essential workers and to keep businesses open.
“We know everyone has been through a lot; this has been a long road, and we thank everyone who is doing everything they can to do the right thing,” he said.