A breakdown of local cases by age group throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. (Image courtesy of San Miguel County)

Almost a year into the COVID-19 pandemic and there are still people who aren’t overly familiar with best practices and public health guidelines, or at least adhering to them, officials shared during Monday’s virtual intergovernmental meeting.

Communications continue to be of the upmost importance in educating visitors and locals alike, as the 20s to 40s age groups have accounted for the most positive cases in San Miguel County since March 2020. As of press time Wednesday afternoon, there were 147 total local positive cases in the 20-29 age group, 88 in 30-39 and 76 in 40-49, which have accounted for just over 60 percent of the 496 total cases, according to the county’s COVID-19 dashboard.

“We’ve been discussing how we can do a better job of targeting the age ranges where we’re seeing the greatest incidence of cases and spread in the 20s, 30s and 40s; by far the 20s and 30s groups,” county manager Mike Bordogna said.

Social media is one way to engage with that demographic he added, as well as providing information at certain businesses.

“We’re going to have targeted Facebook messages to folks in the various geographic areas in our community and age ranges,” he said. “Likewise, and this isn’t related to their ages, but the liquor stores and pot shops are places where we know people will often be getting their supplies for gathering. So trying to make sure we’re hitting them at that point.”

Bordogna added, “We’re working on getting up signage in those locations.” 

The county is nearly ready to debut a new “mask up” campaign, which experienced a “slight delay in photographs and printer,” Bordogna said. “That’s local leaders and local residents trying to social norm that if you want to be a local and act like a local you have to keep us safe like we’re trying to do with each other,” he explained.

There had been discussions before the ski season about potentially requiring testing for everyone traveling to the area, but nothing official moved forward.

The county’s team of public educators and Telski mountain hosts have been sharing pertinent COVID information with the public, particularly visitors.

Though the rollout of the Moderna vaccine has been underway for weeks now, there is no such thing as too much education or information when it comes to the ever-changing world of COVID. 

“As a ski instructor, I’ve had four clients in the last week who didn’t understand any of it, haven’t read it, came out without their masks, the whole bit. They are being treated well by the mountain hosts and by the whole community and being gently but firmly directed to do the right thing,” Telluride Mayor Pro Tem Todd Brown said. “I think we’re doing it successfully. We need to continue to remind ourselves that it’s us who are infecting each other, and we don’t see a lot of visitors. We just need to keep our guard up as the post-holiday numbers start to creep back up.” 

San Miguel County Commissioner Hilary Cooper responded to that sentiment.

“There is clear evidence throughout this that those who are traveling travel with the virus. It is not just that we are spreading it among ourselves here. It is when we open up to more visitors, you’re inviting the virus into our community in larger amounts. That is the clear science. That is clear data,” she said. “Yes, we need to be more vigilant here locally, but as we open up, and as we invite visitors into our community, we are inviting the virus in, period.”

Telluride Mayor DeLanie Young added, “I will just echo that, Hilary. While I appreciate the sentiment that has been going on for months that it is just internal and visitors aren’t bringing it, the truth is we will honestly never necessarily know who got it from whom. Instead of playing the blame game of us versus them, it can come from anywhere.”

There have been 116 non-resident positive cases since the onset of the pandemic, according to county statistics, a number that is not included in the overall local total.

“I think the key is just more testing. We need to have testing every day of the week here. We need to get people tested immediately. We have to continue with contact tracing,” Cooper said.

A semi-permanent testing at the Lawson Hill intercept lot, courtesy of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, will open up Monday. Tests will be available Mondays and Tuesdays from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.