The Garfield County Commissioners tackled yet another week’s agenda. As a reminder, all public meetings are available to stream online, during or after-the-fact, at https://www.garfield-county.com/
For this month’s COVID update, Garfield County Public Health Director Yvonne Long invited Dr. David Brooks with Valley View Hospital to speak to the commissioners about monoclonal antibody treatment for the virus. “Just to give you some idea of what monoclonal treatments are,” said Brooks, “These are laboratory manufactured antibodies that basically are originated from immune cells from infected individuals, then are administered to people after they have become infected with COVID-19. They can also be administered preventatively if someone has been exposed.”
Valley View has been offering the treatment since December 2020. According to Brooks, the data shows that when someone has a high-risk medical condition and receives the antibodies after a diagnosis, “We can reduce the risk of hospitalization for those individuals by about 70%.”
“In a vaccine we’re triggering active immunization, which means that your body is producing natural antibodies to the spike protein,” explained Brooks. “In this case, it’s called passive immunization, where we’re administering antibodies that aren’t naturally derived from your body, but rather from a lab.”
This treatment is primarily reserved for patients hospitalized with COVID, “or those whose illness has already progressed to require oxygen therapy.” Brooks added that Valley View is giving between 10 and 15 treatments per week.
Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, who called the meeting, said he did so because of a recent statement from Governor Jared Polis. On Nov. 2, Polis and his medical team gave a COVID update which gave some focus to monoclonal antibody treatment. “After he [Polis] got done ranting about people who are not vaccinated,” led Jankovsky, “he finally came back and said that people know more or less what they’re going to do, and if they’re not going to get vaccinated, they’re not going to get vaccinated.” Because Polis had mentioned the treatment, Jankovsky said he wanted the public to be notified.
In response, Brooks said they want to support individuals and providers that want monoclonal antibodies. However, he stated, “It’s not a substitute for the vaccination. Vaccinations are more effective. You get the antibodies from vaccination immediately at the time of exposure to COVID-19, so this is kind of post-infection, but it’s an effective early intervention and we would support it completely.”
Long informed the commissioners that the treatment is reserved for eligible individuals. “[To] qualify for this monoclonal treatment is based on your high-risk underlying conditions,” she explained.
Jessica Menu with Grand River Health in Rifle was invited to speak as well. Menu stated that Grand River is providing 15 monoclonal infusions a week and wanted to let the public know that the treatment is not just a quick shot, but takes a couple of hours. She agreed with Brooks that “it’s definitely not a substitute for the vaccination,” and encouraged the public to get vaccinated.
Garfield County Interim Finance Director Lea Ann Zinnikas presented the adjusted 2022 proposed budget. The public hearing was advertised, as usual, in the Rifle Citizen Telegram.
The 2022 proposed budget of some $112.9 million was initially presented to the commissioners on Oct. 11. “This budget proposed appropriations of approximately $94.6 million for operations, $11.3 million for capital and $7 million for discretionary expenditures,” said Zinnikas. “Estimated operating revenues exceeded proposed operating expenditures by approximately $2.2 million, resulting in a balanced budget.”
Since then, deliberations between the commissioners with elected officials and department heads have resulted in some adjustments. “These changes reflect new information received and strategic direction throughout the public hearings,” explained Zinnikas. “In sum, the final budget represents an increase in revenues of $515,000 and a decrease in expenditures of $4.9 million.”
The commissioners passed the amended 2022 budget and tacked on $25,000 in discretionary grant funding for the Garfield County Fairgrounds in Rifle.
Meals and more
On Nov. 9, Valley Meals and More, a nonprofit which serves hot meals to seniors on the east end of the county, joined the commissioners for a public work session. The nonprofit’s director Mary Kenyon presented their pitch to the commissioners.
Valley View Hospital’s Meals on Wheels Volunteer Coordinator Katie Lidel indicated that their service does not have the capacity to make enough meals at a time. Lidel further informed the panel that the hospital’s program will eventually expire.
Kenyon hopes that Valley Meals and More can fill the void, but needs additional funding. “We’re asking Garfield County to step up and grant $85,000 [to the program],” said Kenyon. The majority of Valley Meals and More’s funding comes from other resources.
The commissioners set Nov. 19 as the meeting for relevant parties to reconvene. Subsequently, the board plans to rule on a recommendation during that meeting.