COVID-19 will not be taking a break for the holidays. It’s not even slowing down. In fact, according to a news release from San Miguel County officials Friday, the rise in positive cases, coupled with other metrics the public health department uses to make policy decisions, the county may be headed for more stringent regulations. There are nine new cases reported through Thursday. Six of those are county residents.
“The increases in our positivity and incidence rates in a matter of 19 days is scary,” said Public Health Director Grace Franklin. “The data is trending towards steeper regulations. The spread is significant and there is increased concern for asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19. Our highest priority has been and will continue to be keeping our kids in school, keeping our economy afloat and keeping our communities healthy. The only way that can happen is through true commitment to the five commitments.”
The county’s two medical centers — Telluride and Uncompahgre in Norwood — are strained and are maximizing telehealth technology in order to stretch staffing at each facility. The region’s medical and emergency providers are also experiencing limitations described as “severe” on ICU capacity. What that means is that those with illnesses other than COVID-19 or with a significant injury or other medical need, may not find a bed at area hospitals as COVID hospitalizations continue to mount.
According to the news release, the risk for COVID-19 has changed across Colorado in the last two weeks. Fifty of 64 counties in Colorado are moving to Level Red: Severe Risk. Community spread and a high transmission rate are the driving forces of recent increases across the state of Colorado. As of this morning, San Miguel County remains in Level Orange: High Risk.
Over 6,000 new COVID cases were reported yesterday in Colorado. These trends project that 1 in 398 residents are currently infected with COVID in West Central Colorado, which includes surrounding towns such as Grand Junction, Montrose, Ridgway, Delta, Crested Butte and Telluride.
“This is not the same virus we saw this summer. What worked in the summer is not working in the winter. This virus thrives in cold, dry climates which increase the amount of time it stays in the air,” said Dr. Sharon Grundy. “We have to change how we socialize, how we work, how we travel. We can keep implementing regulations at the county or state levels but in the end, the trajectory depends on individual behavior.”
Janet Kask, the county’s Open Space and Parks Director, also announced Friday that this year’s Turkey Trot was canceled due to the uptick in cases. The popular 5K event held in Ilium Valley on Thanksgiving morning, attracts, depending on the weather, anywhere from 55 to a sunny day 93 participants, many in costume.
“It was recommended we not host an in-person event this year,” Kask said in a statement. “We look forward to hosting our Annual Turkey Trot again next year on Thanksgiving morning in 2021.”
Those wanting to run anyway, any day, are invited to run the course at their own pace. The map can be found at sanmiguelcounty-co.gov.
Rising COVID cases are hardly confined to San Miguel County. As risks continue to increase across the state with no signs of slowing, public health officials are imploring that dramatic shifts in behavior occur on a personal level in order to keep communities open. If major change does not occur, already stressed medical and emergency services will continue to put routine critical cases, such as heart attack or stroke, at greater risk of becoming untreated.
At Wednesday’s Board of County Commissioners meeting, Franklin said making sacrifices was imperative.
“Take it seriously. We should not be traveling for Thanksgiving this year,” Franklin said. “Take everything we know and love and flip it on its head and don’t do it. I have faith in the this community.”
Grundy, who serves as the county health officer, concurred.
“People have to take that personal responsibility,” she said. “It’s not just our own health risk, it’s our economy.”
The newest nine positive test results bring the county total to 171 cases with 22 active. All positive cases have been contacted and are currently in isolation. These cases were results of household, community or workplace spread.
The positive cases between November 17 and 19 include: 74-year-old male, nonresident, symptomatic, hospitalized, household; 70-year-old male, resident, symptomatic, household; 67-year-old female, resident, symptomatic, community; 62-year-old female, nonresident, symptomatic, household; 56-year-old female, resident, symptomatic, workplace; 48-year-old male, resident, symptomatic, community; 38-year-old male, resident, symptomatic, household; 28-year-old male, nonresident, asymptomatic, workplace; 17-year-old male, resident, symptomatic, household.
The county only includes San Miguel County residents on its COVID dashboard. View the dashboard at sanmiguelcountyco.gov.