State, local trends have AVH closely watching |

State, local trends have AVH closely watching

Aspen Valley Hospital.
Aspen Times File

With more than 1,000 patients being hospitalized daily Saturday through Monday in Colorado with COVID-19, Aspen Valley Hospital’s top-ranking official said Monday the trend and its potential effects locally are “concerning, to say the least.”

David Ressler, CEO of Aspen Valley Hospital, told board members and administrators at their monthly meeting Monday that the community needs to stay vigilant and committed to preventing the virus’ spread despite what might be a case of pandemic fatigue.

“We all want to be with family and friends and have that warm feeling associated with the holidays,” he said. “We don’t want to be separated and distanced and wearing masks. We’re all tired and fatigued; the whole community and the entire world is.”

Ressler’s comments came the same day that pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced it has developed a coronavirus vaccine with a 90% prevention rate, and Gov. Jared Polis extended Colorado’s mask mandate, which was introduced in July, another 30 days into December amid rising COVID-19 cases statewide. Colorado logged more than 8,000 COVID-19 cases last week.

The state bases its color designation given to counties on its COVID Dial on their positivity rates, hospitalizations and incidence rate.

Hospitalizations at AVH are not an immediate concern for officials, but eight of its staff members were out for health reasons — some quarantined — as other hospitals experiencing case surges seek more staffing.

“We did today have some requests from other hospitals to help because they have so many people out,” said Lori Maloy, chief clinical officer at AVH.

The positivity rate county-wide is below the 10% threshold, but its incidence rate is above where it should be.

“The good news that our testing positivity rate is currently well below the 10% for Pitkin County residents at 3.9%,” Ressler said, citing the two-week average provided by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment. “I gotta admit that seems particularly low to me, but I trust the data.”

The positivity rate is higher among the tests administered just by the hospital, which last week showed an 11.85% infection rate after 39 of 329 results came back positive, while the other 290 results were negative, Ressler said.

Pitkin County — which has recorded two deaths this year as a result of the coronavirus — accounted for 47 new cases from Oct. 26 to Monday, according to county health records. Pitkin County epidemiologist Josh Vance had the number of new cases over the same period at 50.

One statistic local public health experts are tracking closely is the incidence rate. The county’s Level 2 restrictions will get tightened in the event that its incidence rate stays higher than 175 per 100,000 residents. Pitkin County, with fewer than 18,000 residents, has been higher than 175 since Oct. 30, with the figure peaking so far at 264 on Saturday and Sunday, county health data show.

The hospital, local government agencies and organizations also are partnering with COVID Check Colorado to set up community testing sites in January.

“This would be their first venture into a community-based setting,” Ressler said, adding tests would be given to visitors and locals.

Community testing isn’t the panacea, board members noted.

“Although we are going to have increased testing … we don’t want people to get a false sense of security just because they can get a test,” said board member Dr. Greg Balko.

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