Over It

Yesterday’s plans got derailed early when Omar texted — because no self-respecting teenager knows what the phone portion of his phone is for — Kara to say he couldn’t come to work because his throat was closed and he had a fever.

Kara immediately suggested he get a covid test; with less faith in teenagers, I called our call center number shortly after 8 a.m.

Now, I think this is one of those many posts I started but never went anywhere with, but if I’m repeating myself, sorry. Either way, our county public health appears to be Over It.

At the July 1 town hall, our public health director announced that after 481 days, they were standing down. No more call center; no more updates or town halls from her department, not even any updates to the “dashboard,” which was providing information on local cases. No vaccination clinics, not even any community testing until perhaps mid-July.

The goal of 70 percent of the 12 and over population being vaccinated had been achieved, more or less. Counting local addresses, we were very close to this, possibly even slightly over it (as opposed to Over It), but here is the major problem with measuring by that demographic: while there are 17-18,000 people who list Gunnison County as their primary residence, there are large numbers of people with second, third and fourth homes, and then there’s our tourist population, which is constantly churning.

Add in all these folks, and our actual population right now could easily be three times the official number, with absolutely no way to know where these folks are from nor what their vaccination status might be.

And then there’s proximity. The federal government formed a “hot spot response team” to react to the increasing delta variant, and the first place in the entire country this response team reported to was Mesa County, Colorado, home to the great unvaccinated city of Grand Junction. But the response team doesn’t seem to have helped much.

According to Denver’s CBS News just yesterday, 92 percent of the hospital beds in Mesa County are currently occupied and there are around 700 active cases of covid, some large percentage of them of the delta variety.

(Which causes some confusion in this part of Colorado since there is a town between Gunnison and Grand Junction called Delta, named not for the Greek alphabet but the confluence of the Uncompahgre River with the Gunnison before the Gunnison’s grand junction with the Colorado [formerly the Grand] River downstream in Mesa County. Got all that?)

So we are less than a hop, skip and jump from a hot spot, with a totally unknowable portion of our actual population unvaccinated — and I’m starting to imagine that if widespread testing were the thing it was once predicted to become, Gunnison would have a large positive rate, even if mostly asymptomatic or so mild as to be mistaken for allergies, among its heavily-vaccinated residents.

I say this based on my anecdotal observations, which started with the news that a neighbor, unvaccinated, had contracted covid. It laid him up for the better part of a week, and he and his wife, who tested negative, quarantined for several days after that, but he contracted his case from a fully vaccinated person.

Then I heard from someone else who had no symptoms but was quarantining at home out of an abundance of caution after close contact with someone who was sick. Both of these people were fully vaccinated.

And now we’ve got Omar and his mother, both vaccinated, showing symptoms that are not yet diagnosed as covid or any other disease.

So I called the defunct call center, because last I heard there would be a phone tree to direct your inquiry accordingly, but after going through the “tree,” which gives you one option, you end up at public health. It seems easier to just suggest you call public health, but what do I know?

I gave whoever answered the phone all kinds of details before she said, “Let me connect you with a nurse,” at which point I provided all the details again. The nurse said Omar should call public health to schedule a test, but they like to wait for a day.

They like to wait for a day? The amount I can’t explain to you about this virus grows by the minute. Then, when Kara also called public health, someone else told her all their testing spots were full for the day, so Omar would have to get his test the following day. They are still sending tests out to a lab, so it would take an additional 48-72 hours for results. It’s not clear if that counts weekends.

Lynn discovered you can buy a two-pack test kit at City Market for $29 and test at home. I thought I read somewhere that rapid tests are now considered fairly reliable, and you would think with a highly contagious delta variant flying around the county and as best as I can figure — attempting to extrapolate from the state website, which has as its biggest concern which counties have public health orders — us averaging one positive per day, you would think you’d want to know sooner rather than later. Particularly if transmission is proliferating among vaccinated people.

But it was too much for Omar to either call or text Kara so she could take him a home test, paid for by Pat’s — although he did manage to get a test scheduled for today from the county. So we will know probably sometime next week what precautions to take for this week.

I asked public health for guidance and got really nothing beyond, “You might open some windows” like that’s an idea in Gunnison in the summer, where every window in town has been open for two months. I wondered about masks and got told, “Yeah, that might be a good idea,” although it was an idea that did not meet with much favor in our fully vaccinated shop. I asked about customer interactions, but public health didn’t seem to care.

They mostly just seem Over It.

And not just public health, I suppose. One case per day, that we sort of know of, seems about as steady a rate as we’ve had here since a horrendous early start to the pandemic. Perhaps none of these cases warrants hospitalization — we don’t know, because despite the county’s insistence that we can find all the data they were collecting on the state website, we can’t — but one of the county’s previous metrics for concern was the availability of beds in larger, regional hospitals.

Like those in Mesa County, where an entire 8 percent of beds are available and efforts to contain this current outbreak do not seem to be making any headway.

But it’s not the headline news it was for over a year and since the epidemic has become endemic, I suppose we’re all going to have to learn to live with or around it, particularly since so many think they’re making a valid political statement by refusing to be vaccinated.

It would be really nice to not have to wait a week to find out if covid is stalking among us at Pat’s, but since Omar must need to be saving all his texting fingers for his new Playstation and the county is Over It, I guess we probably won’t find out until Omar is over whatever is ailing him as well.

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