Covid  update

This graph shows positive COVID-19 cases by location. (Image courtesy of San Miguel County) 

The post-holiday COVID-19 spike that public health officials warned everyone about is here. San Miguel County cases continue to climb following Christmas and New Years, as there are 496 total cases and 53 active, including 41 new positives — 29 being residents — as of press time Tuesday afternoon. 

The most recent positivity and incidence rates of 7.5 percent and 513.8 per 100,000 people, respectively, have increased as well. 

While deployment of the Moderna vaccine has been going well, there is still a need to continue testing in understanding and combating the spread of the coronavirus locally. 

San Miguel County Manager Mike Bordogna announced semi-permanent testing in Lawson Hill, starting Monday, courtesy of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Tests will be available Mondays and Tuesdays from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Lawson Hill intercept lot, similar to previous efforts. 

“They’re estimating that they can test approximately 250 per day,” he said during Monday’s virtual intergovernmental meeting. “Right now, we’re able to do 80 to 100 with our mobile site, and we’ll continue to use our mobile site in Norwood.”

The state is expecting a 48-hour turnaround for results, he added. 

Officials have expressed the importance of continued testing alongside the vaccination rollout. Currently, the state is sending 100 doses each to county public health and the Telluride Regional Medical Center weekly. Administering those 200 doses each week has gone smoothly so far. Full-time residents who are 70 years of age or older are now encouraged to sign up for the vaccine. 

People can also pre-register at bit.ly/smcvaccine. If internet access is unavailable, call Dawn Ibis, registry coordinator for vaccine distribution, at 970-708-8670. The county also added vaccine information to its COVID website at covid-19-sanmiguelco.hub.arcgis.com. There will also be a vaccine clinic in the West End Feb. 4. 

Mountain Village Mayor Laila Benitez explained that she has received questions from part-time-turned-full-time residents who would like to receive the vaccine about residency status. 

“It’s a big concern, especially because so many of our part-time residents have become full-time residents last year. There’s just a lot of concern and uncertainty about what do they need to prove that they’re here now,” she said. “ … I think never before have the terms full- and part-time residents been more nebulous. Just that line is no longer very clear cut so I think that’s why we have a lot of anxiety I’m hearing through these questions.”

The county is currently defining every way to prove such status, Bordogna said, though there are easy ways to do so now. 

“Obviously, if somebody has a voter registration, they’ve registered their vehicle, things like that, that would easily qualify them,” he said. “Right now, I’m going to have to get back to you. We’re in the process of making that determination. A lot of it is due to making sure we’re serving are full-time residents first and making sure that the eligible folks in the 70 and over group get their vaccine.”

Telluride Mayor Pro Tem Todd Brown shared his recent experience signing up for the vaccine. 

“As on old fart who has gone through that process, driver’s license, tax form or voter registration, one of those three, if not all three, have to be in San Miguel County,” he said. 

As of Monday, 599 vaccines had been administered, which is 9.8 percent of the adult population, Bordogna said, “so we’re on the right track.”

“When in doubt fill out the form,” he added “ …We want to make sure we’re not sending people flying back to Texas or other places to get their vaccine, but we also need to understand from the state how much vaccine we’ll be able to get so we can give them a reasonable timeframe.”

San Miguel County Commissioner Hilary Cooper added that Colorado is one of the top states in rolling out vaccines and there have been talks about opening up clinics to non-residents statewide.   

“This is a discussion that we’re having at the state level right now, and Colorado is one of the leading state’s in vaccine deployment. We’ve discussed if we have supper efficient systems in place and our goal is to get as many people vaccinated as possible could we open it up to non-residents or non-full-time residents. There’s no definitive answer on that right now, but it is an ongoing discussion at the state right now,” she said. “As Mike said, it’s likely for the foreseeable that we may get about 100 per week, give or take, if we can stay on that schedule. 

“Obviously, we want to get our full-time residents vaccinated first, but I started this discussion with being along with other tourist towns, mountain town commissioners, being adamantly opposed to any non-full-time resident getting vaccinated here, and I’ve since come around to we need to get as many people as possible vaccinated and if we have a good system in place we need to be participating in that process.”