One-hundred-fifty-one Montrose County residents have died with COVID-19 and of these, 145 died because of the virus, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
“We’ve had a lot of COVID deaths,” Dr. Thomas Canfield, Montrose County coroner, said on Friday, going on to urge people to be vaccinated and to receive at least one booster shot.
Most deaths have occurred among older residents and/or those with co-morbidities such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Canfield said.
As of Feb. 3, eight people were hospitalized with COVID-19 illness at Montrose Regional Health.
Of the eight, six were not vaccinated; one was vaccinated and one was vaccinated and boosted. (A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving a two-dose mRNA series or one dose of the Janssen vaccine, the hospital said, citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)
Three of the eight people were in ICU; two of the three were not vaccinated and the other person was vaccinated. No one who was vaccinated and boosted was in the ICU with COVID, according to the hospital’s weekly stats.
One unvaccinated COVID patient was on a ventilator.
The Feb. 3 stats are in line with the average of five to eight inpatient COVID-positive patients seen there over the last three weeks, Chief Marketing and Philanthropy Officer Leann Tobin said.
Between Oct. 1, 2021 and Jan. 31, 298 people had been hospitalized with COVID. The majority of these patients, 62.42%, were not vaccinated. Among those hospitalized because of the virus, 28.52% were vaccinated; just a shade over 1% were partially vaccinated and 8.05% were of unknown vaccination status.
Hospitalization numbers do not necessarily correlate with COVID deaths among Montrose County residents, because not all of the deceased were hospitalized there and not everyone who is hospitalized with COVID dies.
Canfield said no vaccine is failsafe, but that COVID vaccinations reduce the virus’ severity and help keep people from dying.
“Vaccination does not guarantee you won’t get the disease. What it does for most people is decrease the severity of symptoms and decreases the risk of death. It doesn’t preclude the risk of death, but it decreases it,” Canfield, a forensic pathologist, said.
“I recommend vaccinations. I also recommend the booster, at least one. The side effects of boosters are minimal,” he also said.
Canfield said not all data are in concerning the second booster shots and that although younger people can develop myocarditis (inflammation of the heart’s middle wall), that is reasonably rare and at least one booster is worth the risks associated with vaccines.
“I am getting a booster. My wife is getting a booster,” Canfield said, urging people to get their medical advice from their own doctors and not outlets such as television.
He noted vaccines are readily available in Montrose and also noted that monoclonal antibody treatment is available locally. This treatment is typically intravenous and is administered by medical professionals to those who have been diagnosed with COVID. People should confer with their own health care providers to determine whether they are eligible for monoclonal antibody treatment and how to obtain it.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration previously granted emergency approval to monoclonal antibody treatments, including bamlanivimab and etesevimab (administered together) and REGEN-COV.
On Jan. 24, the FDA revised the approval for those two antibody treatments. REGEN-COV and bamlanivimab/etesevimab are now only approved for use when a patient is likely to have been infected with, or exposed to, a variant that is susceptible to these treatments.
That is because most COVID infections being seen nationally right now are the omicron variant and according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data cited by the FDA, REGEN-COV and bamlanivimab/etesevimab are not working against omicron.
“Because data show these treatments are highly unlikely to be active against the omicron variant, which is circulating at a very high frequency throughout the United States, these treatments are not authorized for use in any U.S. states, territories, and jurisdictions at this time,” Dr. Patrizia Cavazzoni, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a statement.
“In the future, if patients in certain geographic regions are likely to be infected or exposed to a variant that is susceptible to these treatments, then use of these treatments may be authorized in these regions.”
Monoclonal antibodies are lab-made proteins mimicking the immune system’s ability to fight off pathogens, Cavozzoni explained.
COVID-19 can mutate over time, diminishing the effectiveness of certain treatments against variants, such as omicron, which as of Jan. 15, was said to account for more than 99% of cases in the United States.
“Therefore, it’s highly unlikely that COVID-19 patients seeking care in the U.S. at this time are infected with a variant other than omicron, and these treatments are not authorized to be used at this time,” the FDA said.
“This avoids exposing patients to side effects, such as injection site reactions or allergic reactions, which can be potentially serious, from specific treatment agents that are not expected to provide benefit to patients who have been infected with or exposed to the omicron variant.”
Other treatments remain available and are thought to be effective against omicron for those with mild to moderate COVID who are at high risk of it becoming severe or fatal. These include Paxlovid, sotrovimab, Veklury (remdesivir), and molnupiravir, per the FDA.
“While it’s critical that we have ways to treat those who contract COVID-19, the authorized treatments are not a substitute for vaccination in individuals for whom COVID-19 vaccination and a booster dose are recommended,” Cavazzoni said in the announcement.
“Data have clearly demonstrated that the available, safe and effective vaccines can lower your risk of developing COVID-19 and experiencing the potential associated serious disease progression, including hospitalization and death.”
Vaccines are available from several local providers and pharmacies (by appointment); visit montrosecountyjic.com for the locations.
Also, the state’s mobile vaccine bus is making more stops in Montrose on Feb. 12 and Feb. 13.
On Saturday, Feb. 12 from 9 a.m. — 1 p.m., it will be at the River Valley Family Health Center, 1010 S. Rio Grande Ave. (near Apollo Road), Montrose. Registration: https://montrose-212-cdphe-mvu15.youcanbook.me
On Sunday, Feb. 13, the bus will be at St. Mary’s Catholic Church (north lot), from 9 a.m. — 2 p.m.. The church is at 1855 St. Mary’s Drive. Registration: https://montrose-213-cdphe-mvu15.youcanbook.me.
Walk-ups are also accepted at both locations. No ID or insurance is necessary.
The Montrose Regional Library is a distribution points for free KN-95 and surgical masks. The limit is five. Montrose Fire Protection District has distributed all of its mask allotment and has not received more.
Visit www.covidtests.gov to sign up for four free at-home COVID test kits.
Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.