Garfield County COVID-19 case numbers continue to decline |

Garfield County COVID-19 case numbers continue to decline

Public health officials urge vigilance to maintain downward trend

Garfield 16 School District Superintendent Bray Ray receives the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at Grand River Health on Friday afternoon.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

The rate of new coronavirus disease cases in Garfield County continues to decline, following state and national trends of late, but there is some concern that the number of people seeking testing has also dropped off.

As of Tuesday, the number of new COVID-19 cases per day over the past two weeks had dropped to less than nine.

The latest seven-day total was 34 cases, and the county’s test positivity rate has dropped to 2.2%.

Both of those measures, and a test-turnaround time of 1.8 days, puts Garfield County at Level Blue, or “cautious,” in terms of risk of disease spread.

Until that trend can be maintained for a two-week stretch, though, the county remains at Level Yellow in terms of public health restrictions in the eyes of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

“Our epi (nurse epidemiologist) team continues to emphasize that our numbers are trending in the right direction, but we are in a race to get vaccines distributed before any of these new variants take hold,” Mason Hohstadt, public health specialist with Garfield County Public Health, said Tuesday.

Since the more-contagious UK variant first showed up in the county last month, five total cases have been confirmed.

“We need to slow the spread of the virus to keep the variants from becoming the dominant strains or to further mutate into something more harmful,” Hohstadt said. “The more the virus is spread, the more chances variants have to crowd out less contagious versions of the virus.”

While the case trend is certainly positive, there is a concern that testing numbers have dropped off. It’s likely infections are still happening at a higher rate than the numbers indicate, Hohstadt said.

Garfield Public Health reports there has been a 49% decrease in the number of tests processed since the beginning of January — from 3,532 tests between Jan. 4-10 to 1,722 for the two-week period from Feb. 8-14.

Garfield County is not abnormal in the concurrent decline in both case numbers and testing, Hohstadt said.

The increasing availability of the COVID-19 vaccine for more people over age 65 and essential frontline workers could lead to a “false sense of security,” he advised in a monthly update to the Garfield County commissioners on Tuesday.

“We still need people, even if they have been vaccinated, to stay vigilant with their personal health, to wear a mask in public, to follow social distancing and stay home if sick … all of those things,” Hohstadt said.

Garfield County Public Health Director Yvonne Long reported county health providers have now vaccinated 13,691 people, as of Monday.

Of those, 9,594 have been first doses and 4,097 are the required second dose, she said.

A total of 3,808 first doses have been administered to residents age 70 and older and 1,257 are fully vaccinated.

Among the 65-69 age group, for which the vaccine was made available in Colorado on Feb. 8, 1,119 first doses have been administered in the county and 86 are now fully vaccinated, Long said.

In addition to the regular vaccine sites at Valley View and Grand River hospitals, Mountain Family Health, long-term care facilities and Public Health’s limited home visits, City Market pharmacies in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and New Castle have limited doses for those age 65 and up, Long also reported.

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