Rare Variant Hits BV Prison

First Appearance Of South African Mutation

BECAUSE the dangerous South African variant of covid 19 has somehow infected two staffers and one inmate at the Buena Vista Correctional Center, mass testing and vaccination began at the medium security prison this week. The three infections, discovered by random screening of positive test results, were the first signs that the mutation had reached Colorado.

The variation, labeled B.1.351, is said to spread more rapidly and possibly be more resistant to current vaccines. The Colorado Department of Corrections and the Chaffee County Department of Public Health were trying to determine the source by contact tracing.

Prisoners have no priority under state vaccination rules, but Gov. Jared Polis has given the Corrections Department discretion in dealing with covid infections. The Buena Vista prison has had 516 positives since testing began almost a year ago. The facility has about 1,200 inmates.

In a news release the department said other measures to control the outbreak include restricting staffers to specific areas to avoid cross contamination, quarantining of anyone testing positive, mandatory masks throughout, suspension of in-person visits and temperature-taking of all staffers entering the prison.

The Buena Vista facility outbreak has not spread to the community. Buena Vista and Salida were given the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s “yellow” designation, third lowest of six levels of risk. And Andrea Carlstrom, the Chafee County health director, said the county was about to have its risk level dropped one notch to “blue.” 

Saguache County has usually been ranked lower than other San Luis Valley counties, and the current ranking was “yellow,” meaning “caution.” This contradicted the New York Times classification of Saguache County as “very high risk” in its nationwide survey of all counties.

The March 8 statistics from the state health department indicated there have been 1464 positive covid tests and 24 deaths in Chaffee County and 3072 positive tests and 58 deaths in the San Luis Valley.  The three-week increases were 85 more positives and one more death in Chaffee County and 213 more positives and four more deaths in the Valley.

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About ljcalloway

I am a writer. I love the Rocky Mountain West. For more than 50 years my primary residence has been in the upper basin of the Rio Grande.

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