This chart shows total local COVID-19 cases by gender. (Image courtesy of San Miguel County)

This isn’t necessarily breaking news, but it’s worth repeating: COVID-19 is everywhere. During a quarterly update looking back at the past three months, San Miguel County Public Health Director Grace Franklin spoke to the prevalence of the coronavirus in the region.

“When we talk about location of the positive cases, the bulk of the positive cases come from the Telluride region, but every single town is truly affected in one way or another,” she said. “The last three months, we really have seen an increase in cases across the county. Our folks out in Egnar weren’t really affected by this virus until recently. Same for Norwood, we’ve seen a huge increase over the last few months as well. This really speaks to the prevalence of this virus across the nation. … We have seen an increase in cases across the board for non-residents, and we’ve seen a very exponential increase in our residential cases.”

As of press time Wednesday afternoon, there were 496 total local cases, including 50 active, Franklin explained, though those numbers will be higher by the end of this week.

“I think it’s really important to note we’re almost at 500 local cases, with 50 active local cases, give or take, as of today,” she said.

Over the past three month there “was a really large increase” of positive cases in the 20-29 age group, Franklin explained. Officials have talked about reaching that age group in an attempt to change their behaviors, particularly social gathering. For more information, see the front page story in today’s Daily Planet.

“This has been the trend across the pandemic that males seem to have a higher incidence rate of positivity,” she added.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the virus was spread locally largely through travel, but recently general community spread and household transmission has been more common, according to exposure statistics. Franklin explained that community spread is more of a catchall phrase that means transmission could have occurred anywhere.

“This really is just our best deduction based off of the person’s behavior over the weeks before testing positive. What do we think happened,” she said. “The community exposure is really that unknown category in the sense that the person is like, ‘I went to the grocery store and that’s it. I don’t know how I got sick.’

“ … Since the beginning of our response, it really did become travel based or unknown community exposure early on, then as we started to refine, you can see that workplace spread occurred more frequently early on as businesses refined their policies. That has minimized, but really it’s that household transmission that’s increasing and community spread as a whole, which is a concerning group because it’s less actionable.”

Testing continues, as the state’s rapid response team will be providing free tests in Norwood and Telluride next week. Details are still being finalized, Franklin said. A semi-permanent testing site will also be established at the Lawson Hill intercept lot, 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.

There have been 9,216 total tests administered, including 495 last week.

“That’s 6 percent of our county population that we tested in one week,” Franklin said, adding public health administered 197 in a six-hour window.

The Moderna vaccine rollout is ongoing as well. The county and Telluride Regional Medical Center is receiving 100 doses each per week, which will most likely be the case moving forward. Franklin explained that there are national shortages that are affecting supply chains in the state.

While there is increased testing and a vaccine, it’s still never been more important to remain diligent in following the five commitments — wear a face covering, frequent hand-washing, minimize group sizes, maintain 6 feet of physical distance, and stay home and get tested if sick — especially since the county is experiencing a post-holiday spike.

“I would caution folks that the decline that we’ve been seeing over time is well passed us, and we are now seeing the effects of holiday gathering and COVID spread, so this virus is very prevalent here,” she said.