This past fall, most national experts predicted a cold and dark winter for the United States as COVID-19 cases and deaths grew precipitously.  Unfortunately, the expert predictions were mainly correct, as national COVID cases reached their peak on January 8, 2021, with 315,179 positive COVID-19 cases in a single day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

In the state of Colorado, COVID cases peaked between the Thanksgiving and New Year’s holidays, with Mountain Family Health Centers’ service area (Western Colorado’s Eagle, Garfield, and Pitkin Counties) showing similar concerning trends.  Between December 2020 and January 2021, Garfield, Eagle, and Pitkin Counties moved into “level orange” on the state’s COVID dial dashboard, and Pitkin County skyrocketed into “level red” for a few concerning weeks in January 2021 with the state’s highest COVID incidence rates.

The shorter days, waning sun, and cold dark winter were upon us. 

And then came rays of light in the global pandemic immediately following the winter solstice in late 2020.  Hope was on the way in the form of COVID vaccines. 

Our hospital and county partners in Eagle, Garfield, and Pitkin Counties were the first to receive the COVID vaccines in late December 2020 and began heroically, and efficiently, vaccinating healthcare workers across the three counties.  The vast majority of Mountain Family Health Centers’ staff were able to be vaccinated by one of our hospital and/or county public health partners.  We are eternally grateful to Valley View Hospital, Vail Health, Aspen Valley Hospital, Grand River Health, and the public health departments of Eagle, Pitkin, and Garfield Counties for vaccinating MFHC’s employees.

After meeting with Governor Polis and Colorado Community Health Center (CHCs) CEOs in early 2021, we were able to secure a direct allotment of COVID vaccine to CHCs statewide. That ensured vulnerable Coloradans with lower incomes, racial or ethnic health disparities, and other healthcare access barriers would be able to be vaccinated.

On January 20, 2021, Mountain Family hosted our first COVID vaccine clinic in Rifle, followed the next day by a second vaccine clinic in Glenwood Springs, and the following week in Basalt, focused on vaccinating vulnerable, high-risk individuals age 70 or older.  I had the honor of working the parking lot vaccination clinic that week, and the smiles, joy, and gratitude behind the masks were palpable.  Some quotes from vaccinated patients:

 “Thank you for vaccinating me and my husband.  We haven’t been able to see our grandchildren in more than a year. I’m getting vaccinated so I can hug my grandchildren in person again.”

“Estoy ayudando a mi madre a vacunarse hoy para poder celebrar muchos más cumpleaños con ella.”

“What do I owe you? Nothing, it’s free?  Wow, thank you for providing this community service so effectively and compassionately.”

As of 3/1/21, Mountain Family has been able to provide more than 2,000 vaccines to our community members, administering 1,577 first vaccine doses and 431 second doses of COVID vaccine.  Nearly 900 vaccines have been given in Glenwood Springs, 640 have been administered in Basalt, and 470 have been given in Rifle.  Of MFHC vaccinated patients reporting race and ethnicity, 41% identify as Hispanic and/or Latinx.

Coupled with local hospital and public health efforts, MFHC’s COVID vaccination efforts appear to be working to reduce COVID incidence.  Garfield County has improved to “level blue” on the state’s COVID dial dashboard, with weekly COVID positivity down to 3.3%.  Both Pitkin and Eagle Counties have improved to “level yellow” on the state dashboard, with COVID positivity rates at 4.7% and 4.9% respectively.

Mountain Family will continue to provide COVID vaccine to community members based on the state’s vaccine guidance via weekly clinics hosted in Basalt, Glenwood Springs, and/or Rifle.  For the week of March 1, 2021, we’re vaccinating patients under the state’s “Phase 1B.2,” which includes Coloradans ages 65 or older, educators, and childcare workers.  For the week starting March 8, 2021, we expect to move into vaccinating “Phase 1B.3,” which includes Coloradans ages 60 and older, frontline essential workers in grocery and agriculture services, and Coloradans ages 16-59 with two or more high-risk conditions.

If you’re a current MFHC patient, we will call you to schedule your vaccine appointment once the state has opened the vaccine phase for which you are eligible.  If you’re not an MFHC patient and are interested in being vaccinated by MFHC, please complete our vaccine interest form online, which can be found here.  Mountain Family will contact you once the state has opened the vaccine phase for which you are eligible.

To make appointments for medical, dental, and behavioral healthcare at Mountain Family, please call us at 970-945-2840.

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