Garfield County reports third COVID-19 death, six new hospitalizations in recent weeks
Garfield County is reporting its third death as a result of COVID-19, the first since April 9 — the news coming amid ever-growing concerns over the rapid rise in new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations locally just in the past two weeks.
The reported death of a man in his early 70s also comes as cases of the virus in the county eclipsed 300 — including 100 just since the middle of June.
The man died Thursday, but where he resided was not released by Garfield County Public Health officials. He had been hospitalized, they said.
His wife also tested positive, and is in quarantine, according to a statement from Garfield County Public Health sent out late Thursday afternoon.
“We wish the family peace and comfort during this difficult time,” Public Health Director Yvonne Long said in the release.
“This loss of life underscores the reality that this virus is still spreading in our community, and that we need to remain vigilant,” she added. “Until we have a vaccine, the only defense we have is to continue to wear face coverings, to socially distance, to wash our hands, and to stay isolated when we are sick.
“We take these actions to protect ourselves, but also to protect others,” she stressed.
Garfield County commissioners also weighed in Thursday, issuing an urgent plea for residents and visitors alike to take personal responsibility heading into the holiday weekend, and beyond, and do their part to limit the spread of COVID-19.
“The most concerning statistic is that six of our recent cases required hospitalization,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said, noting that the last COVID patient who needed hospitalization was back in March.
“The increase in cases is a trend we must reverse,” Jankovsky said. “We’ve seen a cluster of cases within construction crews that were working together. Contact tracing took place to ensure that anyone (who) may have been around these individuals was aware, so potential spread could be limited.”
Garfield County stats
Cases to date as of 7/2 (all clinics) — 307
New cases reported since June 30 — 17
Rolling two-week onset of new cases (June 19-July 2) — 45
Test positivity rate — 4.2%
Deaths — 3 (One new reported Thursday)
Source: Garfield County Public Health
Valley View COVID-19 Cumulative Stats 7/2/2020
Specimens collected through Valley View — 3,231 (New since Tuesday: 265)
Positive results — 141 (New since Tuesday: 12)
Pending results — 23
Patients admitted with COVID-19 since outbreak began — 31 (5 new in past week)
Patients discharged (incl. transfers and deceased) — 20
Grand River COVID-19 Cumulative Stats 7/2/2020
Specimens collected through Grand River Health — 1,719 (New since Tuesday: 8)
Positive results — 66 (None new since Tuesday)
Pending results — 37
Patients admitted with COVID-19 since outbreak began — 2 (no new hospitalizations since April)
Patients transferred — 2
Source: Hospital statistics released twice weekly
The construction site in Rifle voluntarily halted construction for two weeks and reported the outbreak to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Also reporting an outbreak among employees this week was the Iron Mountain Hot Springs, which prompted the closure of the cafe portion of the business.
Recent testing among a growing number of people experiencing symptoms, or coming in contact with someone who tested positive, confirms an increased prevalence of the highly contagious and potentially deadly virus in the Garfield County.
Similar trends are being reported in other parts of Colorado, and across the United States in the weeks since businesses began reopening following the springtime shutdowns.
As a result of the uptick locally, Garfield County is not able to enter Colorado’s less restrictive “Protect Our Neighbors” phase, due to increasing COVID cases.
For now, based on a variance granted May 23, Garfield County restaurants, houses of worship, fitness facilities and gyms were allowed to reopen at 50% of fire code building capacity, or up to 175 people, whichever comes first.
But if the county sees 60 new onset cases of COVID-19 in any rolling two-week period, even that variance could be revoked, county commissioners warned.
The highest two-week total the county has seen thus far is 54 cases between June 5-18.
“With the governor’s latest health orders, all businesses could open with social distancing plans,” Jankovsky said. “We are advocating for local control to open our businesses 100 percent, but we won’t be able to meet the criteria if we cannot lower our case count. We all can help us achieve this if we practice safety measures.”
The county has not imposed a mandatory order for people to wear masks in public places, as Glenwood Springs and Carbondale have done to help prevent the spread. On Thursday, Eagle County also imposed a mandatory mask order.
“We know that some folks don’t like wearing masks, but the use of facial coverings while in public establishments is the best way to ensure our businesses remain open,” Jankovsky said.
Added Commissioner Mike Samson, “Be assured, we as county commissioners are doing all we can to get these variances approved and Garfield County opened up.”
In a short time, the county has gone from a low case count to a number high enough to place it in the high-risk category for disease spread.
Garfield County has experienced 303 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began in early March. To be able to move into the less restrictive phase for reopening businesses, the county would have to meet an extensive set of criteria and demonstrate that viral spread has slowed to 15 cases in a 14-day period. The most recent 14-day period, from June 18-July 1, saw 42 new onset cases.
COVID-19 can affect anyone, but it’s especially concerning for the more vulnerable population, which includes the elderly and people with underlying health conditions — such as heart or lung conditions, obesity or a weakened immune system. Most of the new cases are in people ranging from 20 to 59 years old, county health officials also noted in the Thursday release.
Also, roughly half of the county’s cases are appearing in Latino or Hispanic families (49 percent), and many cases in the region are people working in the construction and food service industries.
“Fatigue and cough are the two most common symptoms, followed by body aches, sore throat, fever and headache,” the release states.
“Make no mistake, this illness doesn’t discriminate by age, and anyone could contract COVID-19,” Jankovsky said. “We want everyone to do their part and help us combat the spread of the virus – COVID-19 is contagious, virulent and aggressive.”
Added Commission Chairman John Martin, “Let’s get our numbers on the decline. We’re all in this together and together we’ll get by.”
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