Ouray Covid

The Ouray County Fairgrounds hosted the National Guard, who administered more than 900 COVID-19 tests to area residents. Ouray County public health officials will move the county’s status from yellow to orange on Monday at 5 p.m., as positive cases surge there. (Courtesy photo)

Wednesday was a big day in Ouray County, for both COVID testing and the reporting of cases.

Testing personnel assembled at the Ouray County Fairgrounds, outside the 4H Event Center, around 5 a.m. that morning for what would be a record day of self-swabbing (of both nasal and oral varieties). 

The response to Wednesday’s free, drive-through event was “overwhelming,” according to a person who assisted that day: in all, more than 900 people were tested. This reporter arrived first at around 2 p.m., was told there would be about an hour wait, and returned later in the afternoon with her spouse to be greeted by even longer lines at 5:15 p.m. By then, a string of tail-lights flashed in the growing dark, as waiting cars edged ever closer to testers wearing face-shields, and billowing white PPE. The cars’ license plates were not only from Colorado at this mass-testing event, but Texas and Washington — and likely elsewhere. 

By the time the test took place, nearly 90 minutes later, oral swabs (apparently the preferred variety) were gone, and only self-administered nasal swabs remained. Regardless (for this writer at least) it was a non-event: the test was quick and painless, and medical personnel brisk and cheerful. It had hardly been a non-event for them: they’d been on the scene for 13 hours at that point (as several were overheard to remark, after a curmudgeonly motorist groused). 

The operation wouldn’t officially wrap up until 8 p.m. 

Spiking COVID-19 rates were the reason for the testing: there has recently been an outbreak at Ouray Silver Mines, and at the Brickhouse 737 restaurant, and, even more recently, several additional cases following a social gatherings (the announcement urged anyone who recently attended “a Halloween party” to get tested). 

By 7 p.m. Wednesday, a total of 70 confirmed cases had been reported on the county’s website, for a positivity rate of 3.3 percent. And by the following day, Tanner Kingery, director of the Ouray County Public Health Agency, made it official: The agency, Kingery wrote in a release, “has been notified by the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment that Ouray County will be moving” from Level Yellow on the state’s Safer at Home dial to Orange. (For a sense of how quickly local COVID cases are rising locally, consider that the dial only recently migrated to yellow just down the road, in Montrose County.)

The new, tighter restrictions take effect Monday at 5 p.m. On Friday afternoon, Mesa County, San Miguel, and La Plata flashed “Level Orange: Safer at Home: High Risk “on the state’s website; Ouray County, San Juan County and Mesa are all in the process of “enforcing stricter public health orders,” the map read. In the meantime, those tested in Ouray County Wednesday — and in San Miguel County Thursday, where an even greater number of people turned out  — can expect to receive their results within 48-72 hours. By Friday afternoon, some Ouray County residents had reportedly already learned whether they were either Covid 19-positive or negative. 

For more information on the latest restrictions throughout the state, visit covid19.colorado.gov.