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RBC | “We have seen evidence at this point of community spread,” Rio Blanco County Public Health Director Alice Harvey told community stakeholders Monday during a pandemic response meeting. “These are not isolated cases.”
Just prior to press time Wednesday, RBC Public Health released an urgent message, notifying residents of eight positive COVID tests in one day for Meeker and one for Rangely. Current case counts are below. Check https://rbc.us/606/COVID-19-Updates for the latest updates or call the Rio Blanco Alerts hotline at 970-878-7121.
“It’s been brought in and now it’s in the community,” Harvey said. Some cases have been traced to visiting hunters, others to out-of-county recreational travel.
According to Harvey, the majority of the new cases were symptomatic and occurred in adults mostly between 30 and 60.
Of those new cases, three individuals required hospital care. Two patients had been discharged and one was reportedly in ICU at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs.
The sudden rise in cases and confirmation of community spread prompted the health department to host a drive-through testing clinic Saturday and will continue the drive-up testing daily instead of testing by appointment. Harvey said public health is doing about 20 tests per day, and both hospitals are also providing testing.
While local hospitals are not at capacity, some regional hospitals—where local patients requiring more intensive treatment for the virus would be transported—have reported they are either approaching capacity or having trouble maintaining staffing levels due to quarantine or illness. According to a report from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, “Colorado has now reached the greatest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations we have had to date, exceeding our peak in April. We reached this even faster than the modeling predicted. If the epidemic curve is not bent, Colorado could surpass intensive care unit (ICU) capacity in late December instead of January. If contacts increase over the holidays (for example, due to gatherings between multiple households), surge capacity could be required in mid-December, unless transmission is reduced.”
As of Monday, RBC is in mitigation status and has three weeks to bring the number of new cases down. If virus transmission is not reduced, the county will return to Safer At Home status.
Asked about the impact of visiting hunters on local case counts, Harvey said, “We’re seeing very low compliance from hunters in terms of mask-wearing and social distancing, but our community also we’re seeing very low compliance rates. So a hunter is going to come into a store and see no one locally wearing a mask, they’re not going to either. We’re expecting that, given the low compliance levels with people in the community following those recommendations.”
The “light at the end of the tunnel” is news that Colorado is expected to receive its first vaccine shipments at the end of January or early February that will be distributed to local hospitals and public health agencies. The first vaccine shipments will be designated for critical workers, residents of long term care facilities and high risk populations.
“We do have plans in place for mass vaccinations. Our flu shot clinics this year have been overwhelmingly successful,” Harvey said.
By NIKI TURNER | email@example.com