Garfield County health officials concerned over rapid rise in new coronavirus cases

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Vials containing swabs used in nasal tests for COVID-19 are collected for transport to a laboratory after being administered outside the Colorado State Capitol to lawmakers and other state employees as well as any other individuals who requested to take the test June 15, 2020 in Denver.
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Latest Garfield County COVID-19 Statistics & Trends

Valley View COVID-19 Cumulative Stats 6/23/2020

  • Specimens collected through Valley View — 2,610 (New since 6/16: 432)
  • Positive results — 106 (New since 6/16: 23)
  • Pending results — 38
  • Patients admitted with COVID-19 since outbreak began — 26 (four new hospitalizations since 6/16)
  • Patients discharged/transferred/died  — 20

Grand River COVID-19 Cumulative Stats 6/23/2020

  • Specimens collected through Grand River Health — 1,448 (New since 6/16: 86
  • Positive results — 59 (New since 6/16: seven)
  • Pending results — 14
  • Patients admitted with COVID-19 since outbreak began — 2 (no new hospitalizations since April)
  • Patients transferred — 2

Garfield County Stats

Cases to date through 6/23 (all clinics) — 240

New cases reported since 6/16 —41

Two-week onset of new cases (June 8-21) — 39

Deaths — 2 (none since April 9)

A sharp uptick in the number of new coronavirus cases in Garfield County — 40 in the past week — is concerning to public health officials, who are advising people to continue safe social distancing practices while enjoying summer activities.

In addition, some of the people recently hospitalized in the county with COVID-19 are as young as elementary school age, according to the Garfield County Public Health Department.

“As more and more of us move around, both in our county and regionally, the potential to contract COVID-19 increases, as does the chances an infected person may spread it to their families and community,” County Health officials advised in a Tuesday statement.

“In one recent cluster, individuals from five different counties contracted the disease,” according to the press release.

Most new cases in Garfield County are in people ages 20 to 59, and clusters of cases are appearing in the food service and construction trades, “as well as among young people (who) are gathering socially,” according to the release.

Garfield County is currently coordinating efforts with neighboring Eagle and Pitkin counties regarding a cluster of cases that appeared in the Basalt area involving local youth aged 16 to 18.

“This disease does not discriminate,” the county’s release states. “Just three of the hospitalized patients were over the age of 60, and we’ve seen patients as young as elementary-school age.”

Garfield County recorded 40 new cases in the past seven days. That’s the most cases reported in the county in a one-week period since late March.

So far, the number of new cases remains below thresholds that could trigger a rollback on provisions allowing businesses to reopen more fully in the county.

Garfield County was granted a state variance in late May allowing restaurants, gyms and churches to reopen at greater capacity than current statewide health orders allow.

Built into that is a provision that, if the county sees 60 new onset cases of COVID-19 over a 14-day period, the variance could be rescinded, said Carrie Godes, public health specialist for Garfield County.

What exactly that could mean, and whether the county would have to come into compliance with the stricter state provisions, would need to be determined.

“We don’t want to get there,” Godes said.

As of Monday, Garfield County’s cumulative COVID-19 case count stood at 240 since the pandemic first reached the area in mid-March.

Some of the 40 new cases date back to earlier this month when a particular person said they first became symptomatic, Godes explained. The most-recent 14-day period in the county’s case tracking, from June 9-21, saw 39 new confirmed cases.

To date, the county has had 139 lab-confirmed cases, and the remaining 101 were deemed probable due to people coming in direct contact with someone who had tested positive, Renelle Lott, the county’s public information officer, confirmed.

Since the start of the outbreak, 22 Garfield County residents have been hospitalized, and six remain in the hospital, according to the county’s release. That number is different than the hospitalization numbers released by Valley View and Grand River hospitals, because some of their hospitalizations have involved non-county residents, and some patients have been transferred to other hospitals in the state.

More recently, Garfield County has seen 25% of its lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases just since June 15.

“An analysis of the past six weeks shows a steady increase in cases since the county shifted from ‘Stay at Home’ March 26  to ‘Safer at Home’ April 26, and following the Memorial Day holiday,” County Health stated in the release, referring to the two stages of public health orders issued by Gov. Jared Polis since the outbreak began.

“Garfield County Public Health asks the community to take responsible actions to ensure the health of everyone,” the release goes on to state. “As we continue to open our businesses and get back to living life to the fullest, we remind you that there are only a few essential tools available to fight this disease. These tools are not designed to impinge on personal freedoms or rights, but to ensure the health of all people.”

“Small actions and personal responsibility can go a long way toward helping us combat this pandemic,” the release concludes.

Those actions include wearing a face covering when in public, maintaining a social distance of six feet, washing hands regularly, getting tested within one to two days of experiencing symptoms, and staying home if experiencing symptoms such as a fever, dry cough and unusual shortness of breath.

Eagle County Director of Public Health Heath Harmon was equally pointed in his comments contained in an Eagle County press release.

“The pandemic continues, the virus is still here, and our community members are still susceptible to infection,” Harmon said in the release. “This is not about personal risk tolerance, this is about making decisions that help protect the community. We need to co-exist with this virus until a vaccine is available and do so in a way that helps limit its spread.”

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