COVID meter

The San Miguel County COVID-19 Meter is currently in the blue. (Courtesy image)

It’s been nearly a month since there’s been a positive COVID-19 case in San Miguel County. That’s pretty impressive, officials said during Wednesday’s Board of County Commissioners meeting, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the coronavirus isn’t still a concern or people should relax in regards of the five commitments — wearing a facemask where they’re required, maintaining social distancing, staying home when sick, getting tested if coronavirus symptoms are exhibited and frequent hand washing.

As of press time Thursday afternoon, total positive cases were still at 89, with zero active cases. The San Miguel County COVID-19 Meter is in the blue “cautious normal” section, one level above “no risk” and three below “severe.”

County public health director Grace Franklin added that there may be changes in the caseload over the handful of weeks given schools reopening and the recent Labor Day holiday weekend.

“We’re almost one month with zero new cases of covid within our county. We have had other non-residents test positive and a couple students at college whose home address is Telluride, but once we identified they were living in a different state or county we connected them with the right public health entity,” Franklin explained. “Within our community it’s very much settled for now. As we discussed before, it takes about two to three weeks to see the effects of any kind of exposure on a larger scale. With Labor Day just ending, our schools going back in session and having more people in close proximity, this week and next week is that point where we might start seeing some shift; a couple weeks from now, any shifts from behavioral changes over Labor Day.”

She added that there have been zero positive cases among participating teachers and staff across the county school districts, before reiterating the importance of continuing using best public health practices.

“This virus isn’t gone. It’s simmering, smoldering,” Franklin said. “It’s still around, but we know what works and we know that the five commitments is really key to safely move forward. We’ve been able to do that successfully within our county.”

After experiencing some spikes in positive cases over the summer, the recent decrease has also meant less testing at the Telluride Regional Medical Center and Uncompahgre Medical Center.

“Testing has decline a little bit over the last few weeks compared to the height of summer,” Franklin said. “Both medical centers are meeting the demand that is being requested.”

The county also has 11 contact tracers as a result of the mid-summer increase in testing and cases, which is more than sufficient, she added.

“The state recommends one contact tracer for every 1,000 people in your county. That felt pretty darn adequate for us when we were doing well, but had a steady pace of positive cases. When we had larger outbreaks we couldn’t really flex as nimbly as we’d hope, so we built in 11 people who are now trained and done a great job over the last few months helping us out and are ready to respond if and when things shift back to a higher case load,” Franklin said.

Public educators have helped over 30 different groups, including restaurants and other businesses, throughout the pandemic as well.

County officials have had conversations with Telski regarding the upcoming season. A public discussion with local officials, including from the towns of Telluride and Mountain Village, will be part of the county’s meeting next Wednesday.

“This morning, Grace, I and Dr. Sharon Grundy met with the risk manager and vice presidint of Telski to go over initial considerations for their 2020-21 ski area covid operating and safety planning. That information and conversation will occur at the Sept. 16 meeting,” county manager Mike Bordogna said. 

Commissioner Hilary Cooper said officials “need to be on the same page before this plan is presented to the state” and that Mountian Village and Telluride “are certainly stakeholders in this process.”

Franklin added that the state will be releasing its ski resort guidelines within the week.

In other county news, Airbnb release a list highlighting the places with the most Enhanced Cleaning program certifications — a virus-inspired effort to increase sanitation and cleaning protocols — and Telluride took the top spot, according to a recent Travel + Leisure article.

“I just want to give huge kudos to our lodging committee and lodging community and that whole industry for really not only embracing this change and these hoops to jump through, but really rising above and setting an example,” Franklin said.

The lodging committee continues to meet on a weekly basis. The economic recovery committee isn’t meeting this week, but will reconvene Sept. 18.

For more county coronavirus information, visit sanmiguelcounty.org.