Garfield County Public Health monitoring COVID-19 potential in schools, but no alarms yet |

Garfield County Public Health monitoring COVID-19 potential in schools, but no alarms yet

Post Independent Garfield County news graphic

With 17 new COVID-19 cases throughout the county, Garfield County Public Health (GCPH) reiterated the benefits of wearing a face covering in certain situations Tuesday during a public health update.

At the Garfield County Board of County Commissioners work session, Public Health Director Yvonne Long reported the county was up to 880 total cases of COVID-19, and her department was keeping an eye on case numbers as kids return to school.

“It is just a slight uptick from what we’ve seen over the last couple weeks,” Long said. “But not anything that’s causing alarm quite yet.” 

Many schools have already begun classes and Long said the school districts have public health’s full support. 

While face masks are ordered to be worn in businesses by Gov. Jared Polis, Commissioner Mike Samson said he continues to receive questions about the county’s intent to enforce the order.

“The point was brought up that businesses are putting up signs they’d like you to wear a mask, but a mask wasn’t required to enter the business,” Samson said. “I’d like some clarification.”

While some municipalities are enforcing the mask order, Commissioner John Martin said the county was not.

“It would be up to the merchants if they would like to go ahead and do that outside the cities,” Martin said. “It’s still a state order, and we encourage no confrontation with those that do not wear a mask inside the business.”

Long added the county has talked to restaurants about requiring masks during food preparation, issuing cease and desist letters when need be.

“It is a state order,” she said. “I know masks are a huge issue, and most people don’t like them, and I don’t like them. But it was one of the three factors that reduced infection rates.”

When public health receives complaints about a restaurant not complying with the mask order, Long said they have discussions with the business owners. While the department has sent cease and desist letters, she said they have not had to follow through with a cease and desist order, because the restaurants re-entered compliance. 

During the public comment portion of the health update, Garfield County resident Tonya Walls asked commissioners if they would discuss allowing businesses to put out signage indicating people with medical exemptions preventing them from wearing masks were welcome in the business.

“I think we need a little common sense in Garfield County,” Walls said. “The fear is controlling everything.”

County officials explained that the county does not issue mask signage for businesses, and making accommodations for clients with medical needs was the responsibility of the business owner. 

So far, four people have died in Garfield County as a result of COVID-19, Garfield County Coroner Robert Glassmire said.

Responding to Samson’s questions about the age and health of the four, Glassmire said they were all more than 60 years old and most deaths are attributed to more than one cause.

“I would find it worth investigating if I saw a death certificate with only COVID-19 on it,” Glassmire said. “Most likely, there would be comorbidities. The main comorbidities associated with COVID-19 are pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome, which means they stopped breathing.”

Other comorbidities could include obesity and tobacco use, he explained. To the question of the COVID-19 victims’ health, Glassmire said one victim was skiing a few days before contracting the virus.

“Had it not been for COVID-19, I strongly believe those four would be with us still,” Glassmire said.

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