Jefferson County, Colo. — As we begin 2022, Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) wishes all our community members a happy and healthy New Year. While 2021 may be in the rearview, unfortunately, COVID-19 is not. Since the beginning of the holiday season, there have been many developments in the COVID-19 pandemic. Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) is committed to promoting health and preventing injury and disease for the residents of Jefferson County, Colorado.
As school begins and colder days are upon us, JCPH is offering the following updates and resources to help keep our county safe as community members return to normal activities — and as students, faculty and staff return to a new school semester.
COVID-19 rates have risen dramatically in Jefferson County, with 5,593 new cases confirmed between Dec. 27-Jan. 1, an incidence rate of 953.5 cases per 100,000 people. This increase can be attributed to two things — increased community mobility during the holidays and the highly infectious nature of the Omicron variant.
“Unfortunately, the question is no longer ‘how can we prevent the omicron variant from taking a foothold in our community?’ but rather ‘how can we minimize its impact?’,” said Dr. Dawn Comstock, Executive Director of JCPH. “The good news is that, to our current knowledge, omicron does not cause more severe illness than Delta or other previous strains of COVID-19, and may cause less severe illness for most who are infected. However, it is much more infectious and spreads rapidly, as we are seeing now.”
Spring Semester 2022
With the omicron variant spreading widely in our community, it’s important that school-aged children and the adults who work with them continue the COVID-19 prevention steps they have already been taking, such as masking, physical distancing and getting up-to-date on vaccines, including COVID-19, influenza and other routine childhood immunizations. It is important to note that under Jefferson County Public Health Order 21-006, masking remains a requirement in schools.
“While we know children and parents are ready for the day when we can put our masks away, with the high levels of disease transmission, we must stay the course and continue to protect ourselves and our loved ones from COVID-19,” said Dr. Sarah Rowan, Medical Director at JCPH. “Not only have these steps proven to be effective in curbing the spread of COVID-19, but they are also just helpful, effective steps to keeping our children healthy.”
As any revised guidance for schools and school-aged children comes out from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, JCPH plans to adopt and follow these guidelines, including any revised guidelines for quarantines and isolation periods in schools.
With holiday travel windows coming to a close, the demand for COVID-19 testing has been extremely high. Despite high volume, there are still a number of free COVID-19 testing sites in the county that are available for accurate PCR testing. To see a full list of testing locations in Jeffco, please visit our website.
While volume is critically high, please remember to pre-register for a COVID-19 test. While pre-registration does not move you to the front of the line or into a separate line, it does make the entire line move faster for everyone.
JCPH reminds all Jeffco residents to get tested for COVID-19 if they are experiencing symptoms or have been exposed to an individual who has tested positive for the virus. If you are exposed and are unvaccinated, please get tested 3-5 days after exposure. If you are exposed and are vaccinated, please get tested after 5-7 days. Symptoms of COVID-19 may appear 2-14 days after exposure. JCPH also reminds our community to please follow CDPHE’s updated quarantine and isolation guidelines.
Lastly, if you use a rapid COVID-19 test at home, please remember to report your results. COVID-19 test results, regardless of outcome, including BinaxNOW and Cue Health tests, are required to be reported. COVID results are immediately reportable; therefore, results must be sent within 24 hours of the results being known or determined. Learn more.
Due to the highly infectious nature of the omicron variant, and its widespread presence in Colorado, many public health experts are now recommending the use of N95 or KN95 masks, rather than cloth masks. While these masks are the gold-standard for protection, with higher levels of efficacy than surgical masks (which are more effective than cloth masks), the bottom line is all individuals should wear some form of face covering.
“With the rapid changes we are seeing in the pandemic, N95 or KN95 masks may not be rapidly available. While we encourage folks to use the highest level of protection available, we know this may not be possible. That doesn’t mean surgical or cloth masks are ineffective — they still will provide a higher level of protection than not masking at all, and that could make all the difference,” said Lane Drager, Vice President of the Jefferson County Board of Health.
Masking is required in Jefferson County in all public, indoor spaces. Further, JCPH recommends all wear a mask in all situations in which you are interacting with individuals outside of your household and cannot maintain proper physical distancing — especially while indoors.
Vaccination & Boosters
If you have not yet gotten vaccinated against COVID-19, please do so as soon as possible. COVID-19 vaccines are available and approved for all individuals age 5 and older, and currently booster shots are approved for all people age 16 and older. The Food and Drug Administration has issued an emergency use authorization for COVID-19 boosters for adolescents ages 12-15, as well, and as soon as this recommendation is adopted by CDC and CDPHE, boosters will be available for this age range in Jefferson County. More information on this will be released as it is available.
Despite the emergence of promising new treatments for COVID-19, such as monoclonal antibody treatment, vaccination remains the best line of defense against COVID-19.
“While treatments such as monoclonal antibody treatment offer an additional opportunity to fight back against this disease, it’s much better to avoid contracting COVID-19 in the first place, especially since the availability of these treatments remains scarce,” Dr. Rowan said. “Just like with all diseases we can avoid or lessen with vaccines, it is much better to rely on prevention, rather than treatment.”
There are many COVID-19 vaccination sites in Jeffco where residents can go to receive their vaccine. All sites offer COVID-19 vaccines for free and no ID or insurance is required. For a complete list of COVID-19 vaccine locations across the county, visit www.jeffco.us/vaccinesignup.
“We know the people of Jeffco are tired and ready for this pandemic to be over,” Dr. Comstock said. “However, until we win the fight against omicron and get to a safer point, as a community, we have to continue to take prevention steps to keep each other healthy. COVID-19 has already had too high a cost and we have lost too many people. We will get through this — but we have to work together.”
To learn more about COVID-19 prevention and resources, including more information about all topics listed above, please visit our website at www.jeffco.us/coronavirus.
About Jefferson County Public Health
Public health is what we do collectively to prevent illness and premature death and promote health in our neighborhoods and communities. Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) is a nationally accredited health department committed to promoting and protecting health across the lifespan for all people through prevention, education and partnerships. To learn more about JCPH visit https://www.jeffco.us/public-health. You can also follow JCPH on Twitter @JeffcoPH, Instagram @JeffcoPH and Facebook @jeffcopublichealth.