Breakthrough COVID-19 cases remain low in Summit County
Public health director says community could see a spike in rates because of delta variant
Editor’s note: The story has been updated to state that the total number of delta variant cases known locally is now five since this story was initially published.
Vaccines began rolling out to Summit County residents in late December, and since then, officials and health experts have encouraged the public to roll up their sleeves. The vaccines have been touted as being highly effective at preventing severe illness and hospitalizations, and about 76% of the county’s population is fully vaccinated.
But how many vaccinated individuals have still tested positive for COVID-19 — known as breakthrough cases?
“What we’re seeing is about 1.7% of our cases are breakthrough cases, and that’s all the way back to Jan. 22, so that’s when people could be fully vaccinated,” Summit County Public Health Director Amy Wineland said.
Wineland said a breakthrough case is someone who becomes ill from the virus after being fully vaccinated — at least two weeks after receiving the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The number of cases is so low that some health care providers, such as Summit Community Care Clinic, haven’t been in contact with any breakthrough cases.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, vaccine breakthrough cases are to be expected because none of the vaccines are 100% effective at preventing illness. The website states that over 159 million people in the United States are fully vaccinated and that there have been about 5,492 known breakthrough cases as of Monday, July 12.
According to The Colorado Sun, fewer than 2% of Colorado’s coronavirus cases since mid-January have occurred in people who are fully immunized against the virus.
Within Summit County, Wineland said there’s been a total of 21 breakthrough cases as of Wednesday, July 14, and that only one case led to a hospitalization. Wineland said the 20 other positive cases were met with typical symptoms of the virus, including fever or chills, a cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea.
Wineland noted that the percentage of breakthrough cases could increase as the delta variant, which was first detected in India, spreads in the community. Wineland said there are five known cases of the variant locally and that the breakthrough rates will likely increase as the strain makes its way through the population.
“Because the delta variant is two times more contagious … it’s likely to take advantage of those situations where we’re closer together, and unmasked and we’re indoors with each other,” Wineland said.
As of now, Summit Community Care Clinic CEO Helen Royal said she isn’t worried about the rate of breakthrough cases and how they relate to the delta variant, but she said that could change in the future.
“This whole pandemic has been so fluid in what we know that I would say today that we are not having big concerns, but as we go further along in the course of it, things may change,” Royal said.
Wineland also said unvaccinated individuals are more at risk and that the virus will continue mutating “as long as it can find hosts.”
“I do think it’s important to understand that even though the vaccines are effective against the variant, the longer we have unvaccinated individuals within our community, the more likely we’re going to continue to see virus spread,” Wineland said.
Wineland noted that there are no recommendations for a booster shot, but she cautioned that could change in the future.
“Right now, they’re identifying that the vaccine efficacy is in the high 80% for any illness, and then it still remains really high in the 90s for efficacy against hospitalizations,” Wineland said. “It’s likely we might see more breakthrough cases, but it’s also really critical for everyone to understand that the vaccine is still the best tool that we have to fight this virus.”
Moving forward, Royal encouraged individuals to continue getting their information from trusted sources of information.
“I think it’s just important to stay informed and get information from trusted sources, such as our public health department and the CDC,” Royal said. “That’s our best way to continue staying healthy and getting our life back to normal is following good sources of information and guidance associated with them.”
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