San Miguel County Public Health has detected an increase in COVID cases, similar to what the county experienced in January. As the sampling data predicted in July, virus cases have continued to rise, with the Delta variant making up the entirety of the last three wastewater samples.

In the last year, pockets of virus positivity seem to alternate between the east and west ends of the county, and currently the Telluride area appears to have the biggest number of cases. Currently, there is only one confirmed active case in Norwood. 

Norwood Public Schools does not have any confirmed cases as of press time Tuesday. Superintendent Todd Bittner said on Monday there are zero at this time. 

“Each day we will determine the needs of our staff and students based on infection rates and contact tracing,” he told The Norwood Post. 

West End Public Schools has not been as fortunate with virus cases. Superintendent Clint Wytula was forced to close down schools temporarily on Aug. 19. He told The Norwood Post he wasn’t sure the exact number of cases that had been identified within his district, but he said it was enough to pause in-person learning. 

West End schools are set to resume in Nucla and Naturita Aug. 30. 

In a news release last week, representatives from San Miguel County Public Health recommended that everyone, even the vaccinated, wear masks indoors during this time of high virus activity. At the same time, schools in Norwood and the West End have not passed mask mandates — something parents seem to be mostly supportive of.

Mike Morlang, Norwood Public School’s board president, said it’s important for people to stay home when they feel sick. He said the superintendent is also asking people not to come if they are ill, so that school can carry on, and unmasked. 

“He has aggressively reinforced that parents need to be vigilant and keep sick students at home to ensure a successful in-person school year,” Morlang added. 

County public health director Grace Franklin said the virus increase is serious. She hopes people who have not been vaccinated will consider doing so. 

“A year ago, these positivity and incidence rates would have put the county in Level Red,” she said. “The vaccine works really well for severe outcomes, but it’s not the sole remedy to ending the pandemic. The time is now to proactively change our behavior to prevent the continued spread to vaccinated and unvaccinated people.”

The news release added that San Miguel County Public Health has begun discussions with the state’s board of health to evaluate current disease burden and caseload data to determine whether proactive preventative mandates would be suitable in the coming weeks. 

Could mask mandates be coming this fall for the county? 

Public health confirmed 20 new positive cases of COVID from test results received from Aug. 13-18. Of those cases, 16 were confirmed as East End residents, while one was confirmed as a West End resident. It’s important the public remember that only those who choose to test are reported in the data, and many in Telluride, Norwood and surrounding areas are choosing not to test for a variety of reasons. 

To date, there have been 984 total COVID confirmed cases among San Miguel County residents, including 41 breakthrough cases, with one COVID-related death.