We are experiencing the usual whipsawing of Mother Nature, from warm and sunny to wet and cold, sometimes within hours, as we enjoy the last vestiges of our winter season and look forward to another glorious summer. Much the same can be said for the whipsawing of the COVID virus between frustration that the incidence rate is hanging on, and yet optimism that normalcy is within sight.
As I write this, nearly 11,000 doses of vaccine have been administered to Pitkin County residents, starting with our most vulnerable, and vaccines are projected to increase over the next several weeks as eligibility is now open to any Pitkin County resident over age 16. A very rewarding effect of these vaccinations has been an observed decrease in hospitalizations and deaths among the vaccinated population, locally and across the state and country. This is a fantastic outcome and one that has been a priority since the beginning – to not overwhelm our healthcare systems and resources.
And yet Pitkin County remains in the orange level on the state dial, with a high incidence rate, a high percentage of positive tests, and with variants having been detected. Clearly, the virus is continuing to spread throughout our community, engorged as we are with spring break visitors, earning us the unenviable position of being the sole county in the state that is in the orange level. Our continued diligence to the Five Commitments to Containment is a must, even as we all crave a greater sense of normalcy. We know that sunny and warm days lie ahead, but we are still in the throes of our year-long winter.
The reality is that this virus, and mutated versions of it, remains a serious threat to our community, even if hospitalizations and mortality have declined. There is still much we don’t understand about the varying impacts that the virus has on our bodies beyond the initial infection. In this month’s enewsletter, we share much of what we have learned and are observing, as explained by our frontline practitioner, Rachel Houseal, PA-C. Rachel has witnessed young and healthy patients who are still suffering weeks and months after they were infected (known as “long haulers”). She will offer what she has learned about this syndrome and what it may mean to you or someone you care about.
Aspen Valley Hospital is working with our partners at Pitkin County Public Health, our local community providers, and experts across the state to develop the ability to help patients cope with the lingering and sometimes severe effects of COVID. We are establishing a support group to help with the psychological toll the long-term symptoms can engender.
Indeed, spring is here and there is cause for great optimism as we increasingly become vaccinated and protected as a population and a community. Our job, as a hospital and a network of care, is to be here for those who are still suffering, and you can count on us now as our community has for 130 years. To learn more about all the various ways your community hospital continues to grow and evolve, and serve our community, I hope you will check out our spring edition of Health Matters, now available online.
As the saying goes, “Hope springs eternal.” Well, I believe it can also be said that spring inspires hope. So, get out and enjoy the warming weather and spring skiing, while getting vaccinated and staying safe. Summer will be here soon.