Local COVID testing availability changes

By Randi Pierce
Staff Writer

The availability of testing for asymptomatic individuals in Archuleta County has changed due to the state’s move away from using Curative oral swabs for asymptomatic testing, which Pagosa Springs Medical Center (PSMC) previously used for its drive-through testing.

Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration issued a safety alert about the potential risk of false-negative results for the tests.

“As of Friday afternoon, the state elected to … not accept the Curative testing,” said PSMC CEO Dr. Rhonda Webb to the Upper San Juan Health Service District Board of Directors Tuesday evening, noting that PSMC is working to determine how much additional testing is needed outside of the test site at the Archuleta Fairgrounds. “We’re trying to turn our focus to vaccinating people the best we can.”

The free COVID-19 testing site at the fairgrounds, located at 344 U.S. 84, continues to be operated in partnership with COVIDCheck Colorado.

The testing takes place under the all-weather Hughes Pavilion, with the site open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

You can register for your free test by going to www.covidcheckcolorado.org and selecting “Get My Test.”

According to a COVIDCheck Colorado flier, “COVIDCheck Colorado uses a highly sensitive and reliable nasal mid-turbinate swab PCR test that is administered by licensed medical professionals. Please arrive wearing a mask.”

Testing also continues to be available at a number of local health care facilities, including:

• Archuleta Integrated Healthcare: 264-2104.

• Pagosa Medical Group (including rapid testing if deemed appropriate by a provider): 372-0456.

• Pagosa Springs Medical Center: 731-3700. The facility offers testing for symptomatic patients through its clinic. 

San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) encourages residents to get tested if they are symptomatic, think they’ve been exposed, or work in a high-contact position.

Archuleta County
COVID numbers

As of Wednesday, Archuleta County had 603 cumulative cases among Archuleta County residents since March, and three new active outbreaks were listed on SJBPH’s data dashboard.

Vaccine availability
remains limited

As of Jan. 25, SJBPH reported that 6,351 vaccines have been administered to eligible residents in Archuleta and La Plata counties, meaning that less than 10 percent of the residents in both counties have been vaccinated. 

“Therefore, many individuals remain susceptible to infection,” a press release from the organization states. “Even if someone has been vaccinated or has recovered from COVID-19, it is still possible that they may become infected and spread the virus to others. Given these factors, SJBPH is urging everyone to continue to practice proven public health precautions until everyone can be vaccinated.”

On Tuesday, Webb stated that PSMC had administered 1,952 doses as of Jan. 25, with 291 people receiving both their first and second doses of the vaccine.

Archuleta County has three announced vaccine providers: Pagosa Springs Medical Center, Pagosa Medical Group and City Market.

“We are so grateful vaccines are being administered to our most vulnerable community members,” said Liane Jollon, SJBPH executive director. “However, vaccines don’t mean we can quickly return to normal. The pandemic is still dangerous, and lives are at stake. As we wait our turn to get vaccinated, testing and public health precautions are critical to save lives, help our businesses stay open, and get schools back to in-person learning.”

SJBPH also suggests that people who have been vaccinated should follow quarantine guidance if they develop COVID-19 symptoms after getting the vaccine because it can take a few weeks to build immunity after vaccination. That means a person could be infected just before or just after vaccination. 

If an individual has COVID-19 symptoms after getting the vaccine, or at any time, they should contact their health care provider and get tested, the organization explained in a press release. 

The agency added that quarantine is not necessary once a person has received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and two weeks have passed after the second dose. People who live or work in high-risk congregate settings may still be required to quarantine, even if fully vaccinated.

I’m 70 or older. How do I get the vaccine?

PSMC and PMG are taking information for community members 70 and older who would like to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

For more information on vaccines through City Market, visit https://www.citymarket.com/i/coronavirus-update/vaccine.

PSMC:

To make a reservation with PSMC, persons over 70 who live in Archuleta County should visit https://pagosaspringsmedicalcenter.org/vaccine to complete and submit registration forms. 

The following information was provided by PSMC.

Once the forms are received by PSMC, PSMC will add the eligible person to a master reservation list and thereafter PSMC will email that person an appointment time as doses become available.

Those who are unable to access the form online can call PSMC’s vaccine line at 507-3995 and leave a message with six pieces of information:

• Full name.

• Date of birth.

• County of residence.

• Phone number.

• Email address.

• Which group applies to you.

PSMC will call those on its list to set up vaccine appointments.

 People scheduled for vaccination must arrive for their appointment on time. Everyone arriving will be screened for temperature and COVID-19 symptoms, will need to sign a consent, receive a vaccination and be observed for a period of time post-vaccination. The entire process typically takes 30 minutes.

PMG:

PMG will reach out to its patients through phone calls, emails and portal messages to see if they would like the vaccine if they haven’t been able to get it yet. 

Anyone wishing to schedule with PMG can text 372-0456.

State hotline: 

Colorado also launched an additional COVID vaccine resource this week: 1-877-CO VAX CO (1-877-268-2926).

That line is available Monday through Friday 9 a.m.-10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Answers are available in multiple languages.

I’m in another group. When will it be my turn?

Vaccine doses continue to be limited, and the state has indicated those 70 and older will be vaccinated before distribution moves on to other Phase 1 populations.

The next groups designated in Phase 1 include frontline essential workers in education, food and agriculture, manufacturing, the U.S. Postal Service, grocery, human services, state government and others. 

Phase 2, which is expected to begin in the spring, includes people aged 60-69, people 16-59 with certain health risk factors, and other essential workers. 

Phase 3 is expected to begin in the summer and will include members for the general public aged 16-59.

To help collect information for those administering the vaccine as it becomes available, SJBPH has launched a form — available at https://bit.ly/35dzCLw (English) or http://bit.ly/2LvUI0v (Spanish) or through SJBPH’s vaccine page, https://sjbpublichealth.org/covid-19-vaccine/ — for interested individuals to share their contact details to receive notifications when a vaccine becomes available for the phase they qualify for.

SJBPH explained that information provided to SJBPH will only be used to generate notifications of COVID-19 vaccine appointment availability. Email updates will likely come from a range of sources other than SJBPH.

This story was posted on January 28, 2021.