CDPHE: State epidemiologists on the ground in Mesa County as Delta variant increases in Mesa County, state meeting with local leaders & CDC

Governor Polis and Dr. Herlihy held roundtable with local officials

Grand Junction, CO, (June 24, 2021): State Epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy, Dr. Ginger Stringer, the Epidemiology Response Program Manager at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), and Janell Nichols, the Infection Prevention Unit Manager at CDPHE, visited Grand Junction this week to meet with local public health officials, long term care facilities, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and community leaders to investigate the Delta variant and its prevalence in Mesa County. 

“The proportion of Colorado cases due to the Delta variant has been rapidly increasing; now estimated to be greater than 50% of cases,” said Dr. Herlihy. “We are taking extra precautions and turning to the CDC for additional support to make sure we know how and why the Delta variant is spreading in Western Colorado. Getting fully vaccinated is the best protection against COVID-19, including the Delta variant.”

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) labeled the Delta variant (B.1.617.2) as a variant of concern. This variant was first identified in India in December 2020, where it caused a devastating outbreak. Following the identification of several long term care facility outbreaks including some vaccine breakthrough cases, as well as high hospitalization rates in the community, CDPHE formally requested technical assistance from the CDC to investigate the Delta variant presence in Western Colorado. CDPHE officials arrived in Mesa County Tuesday morning and a team from the CDC arrived on Tuesday afternoon to provide the state of Colorado additional technical support.
CDPHE identified the first Colorado case of the Delta variant on May 5 in Mesa County. As of June 22, the variant had been identified in 28 Colorado counties. As of June 22, 54% of Delta variant cases in Colorado so far have been identified in Mesa County through genomic sequencing. In addition, Colorado is starting to see more cases of the Delta variant outside of Mesa County.

On Monday, Governor Polis and Dr. Herlihy held a roundtable with local officials in Grand Junction. In keeping with the state’s efforts to meet people where they are in their communities, the state drove a mobile vaccine clinic to the Cattlemen’s Association Annual Convention. 

Early studies indicate that the Delta variant is more transmissible than the Alpha (B.1.1.7) variant, which has previously been the most common variant in Colorado and continues to be the most common across the United States. Studies also indicate that the Delta variant causes more severe disease, with roughly double the hospitalization rate of the Alpha variant.

Variant data, including a list of all counties known to be impacted by the Delta variant and the number of cases identified, is available on CDPHE’s COVID-19 data dashboard at https://covid19.colorado.gov/data.

In addition to requesting technical assistance from the CDC, CDPHE increased infection prevention requirements in residential care facilities and updated the residential care facility mitigation guidance. Such measures may be needed in situations including but not limited to: identification of variants of concern, increased transmission within a particular facility, and/or increase in morbidity and mortality during a specific outbreak. 

Facilities located in counties where SARS-CoV-2 virus Delta variant is emerging must use a CDPHE contracted lab for all laboratory based COVID-19 testing and follow enhanced testing procedures. All unvaccinated staff and unvaccinated residents (regardless of whether they have left the facility) must be tested with a lab-based PCR test twice weekly. Prior to the start of each shift, all unvaccinated staff must be tested for COVID-19 utilizing a rapid molecular or antigen test. Daily rapid testing should be completed in conjunction with twice weekly PCR testing, not in place of it.

Experts stress that getting vaccinated can provide significant protection against illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. The vaccine is effective against the Delta variant, particularly two weeks after both doses are received. Of people admitted to the hospital with a confirmed case of COVID-19 (but not necessarily due to COVID-19) during the week of June 6-June 12, 2021, more than 90% were not known to have received any vaccine before their hospitalization. Current data suggests that getting vaccinated reduces the spread of infection, leading to fewer opportunities for new variants to develop and spread. 

Continue to stay up to date by visiting covid19.colorado.gov.

CDPHE: State epidemiologists on the ground in Mesa County as Delta variant increases in Mesa County, state meeting with local leaders & CDC