COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Garfield County, says public health
After Garfield County Public Health reported a spate of new positive Covid-19 cases over the past week, some county leaders spent much of a special meeting Monday afternoon addressing the current number of cases, the mortality rate and how the pandemic has affected local commerce.
“You cannot separate health, safety and welfare – they are all intertwined,” said Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky. “You cannot have strong welfare without health and safety, but you also cannot have health if you don’t have strong welfare. To sit here and say we will destroy the welfare or the economy side of this, and say you will have a healthy community, is absurd.”
A special legislative session called by Gov. Jared Polis to address a possible COVID-19 relief package to Colorado small businesses, childcare needs and increasing internet broadband, among other issues, began today.
Jankovsky has consistently supported state-approved variances that insulate the county from adhering to stricter COVID-19 restrictions.
The county currently is in “level 3 (orange),” which allows local restaurants, bars, houses of workshops and gyms, among other indoor places, to operate at no more than 25% capacity. With public health reporting that general county variances have yet to be withdrawn by the state, however, restaurants and bars continue to operate at 50% capacity.
“I think we’ve been criticized pretty heavily over the past three months, unjustifyingly,” said Commissioner Mike Samson.
Garfield County Public Health Specialist Mason Hohstadt said during Monday’s special meeting that, over the past two weeks, the public health office received 605 newly reported positive COVID-19 cases. Of those cases, 349 were reported over the past week, resulting in a 49.8 rolling seven-day average of positive cases per day.
There are now 2,343 total Covid-19 cases in the county, said Hohstadt.
COVID-19 cases in Garfield County
Reported cases Nov. 16-29: 605
Newly reported cases on average: 43.2 per day
Cases by ethnicity:
• Hispanic 52.8%
• Not Hispanic or Latino: 45.2%
• Unknown, unreported: 2%
Hohstadt also reported that based on recently collected specimens tested, no local age group has a test positivity rate less than or equal to 5%.
“We’re seeing a pretty high test positivity rate,” he said. “What that really means is that, we’re not necessarily testing the cases to be able to contain and mitigate the infection from exposures.”
In addition, with state offices closed over the holiday weekend, there has been a delay in the testing process. Public health director Yvonne Long said she not only anticipates an influx of new positive cases this week because of the closures but throughout the remainder of the holiday season.
“We’re seeing a pretty slow turnaround time of testing and even getting the tests to the proper labs,” she said.
Jankovsky said with one death per 10,000 county residents so far, the survival rate is 99.9%. He also said that, out of the six total local Covid-19 deaths, five have been at least 60 years of age or older.
Jankovsky also asked health officials about herd immunity, suggesting the virus will find a way to “run its course” regardless of tightening regulations.
“I think the vaccine’s on its way hopefully, I’m hearing, by Dec. 10 for medical providers,” he said.
Jankovsky also questioned why the county went on lockdown back in March.
Long responded to the numbers.
“I feel like we have been very lucky in this situation, at least in the amount of fatalities that we have had with it, is and continues to be fairly low right now, so we’re just hoping that that stays true,” she said.
Commissioner John Martin did say, however, that as the disease continues to progress and go on, so should the county. He also said that the county should “pay attention to the science.”
“I didn’t want people to think that we’re just selling out just for the sales tax,” he said.
While no questions or comments from the public were allowed at Monday’s meeting, the commission said they would address any public comments or questions during next Monday’s regularly scheduled meeting.
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Garfield County Public Health does not have immediate plans to run an off-site community drive-through COVID-19 vaccination clinic like the one now operating in Pitkin County.