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Garfield County’s COVID case uptick in line with upward trend across state, nationally, even globally

Public Health officials urge residents not to let guard down

Garfield County Public Health building in Glenwood Springs.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

A spike in new coronavirus cases in Garfield County over the past two weeks mirrors trends across Colorado and around the country, public health officials said Monday.

Some of that can still be attributed to end-of-summer social activities going back to Labor Day weekend last month, Garfield County Public Health Director Yvonne Long said during her update to county commissioners.

But, it also likely has to do with general mental fatigue around the various restrictions that remain in place and the fact that people are now moving indoors more with the cooler fall weather, she said.

“What we’re seeing is not out of line with the rest of the state and country, as well as throughout the world…,” Long said. “We all know, and are right there beside everybody who is (feeling) fatigue of the situation and this disease.”

As a result, people tend to let their guard down when out in public, while out socializing, and even around the house, she said.

The most effective means of controlling disease spread is still regular hand-washing, limiting contact with people, social distancing when around others, and wearing a mask while out in public and especially indoors, Long said.

Since Oct. 5, Garfield County has seen 49 new COVID-19 cases; up from 29 during the prior week, county health officials reported.

The county has now topped 1,000 cases total since the outbreak began in March, and has seen its 14-day incidence rate climb from less than 80 per 100,000 people at one point last week to 139.9 per 100,000 on Monday.

That moved the county from the “comfortable” level of risk for that particular indicator to “cautious,” according to the county’s data tracking to determine the level of risk for disease spread.

Two measures remain at the “very high” risk level for the county:

• Community spread — where more than 50% of people who’ve tested positive say they aren’t sure where or from whom they contracted the disease.

• Days before seeking testing — where fewer than 50% of people are seeking testing within 48 hours of showing symptoms.

At the same time, the county’s hospitalization rate (fewer than three per week as of the latest hospital stats), and a test positivity rate of 3.4% remain in the comfortable range.

“Over the past seven to nine months, the medical world has learned so much about the best ways to treat this,” Long said. The result is fewer hospitalizations and shorter stays when people are hospitalized, she said.

The high percentage of community spread and the time people are waiting to get tested after becoming symptomatic is a concern.

The sooner people get tested — the recommendation is within 48 hours of showing symptoms — is crucial to effectively controlling disease spread, said Garfield Public Health Specialist Mason Hohstadt, referring to contact tracing efforts and providing information for people to effectively isolate and quarantine.

Hohstadt said the majority of new cases over the past week are still showing up in young adults and “working-age” people, primarily ages 20-29 (16%) and 30-59 (60%). School-aged children and teenagers represent 11% of the new cases, and 16% and 9%, respectively, were in the higher-risk 60-69 and 70-79 age groups.

The availability and the time it takes in Garfield County to receive a test and then to get results also continues to be a challenge, Long said.

Garfield County does not have a rapid-testing site, as does Mesa County and Front Range locations, which are paid for by the state.

Community testing is available through Mountain Family Health Centers, she said.

“We do still have that lag time there,” Long said. “But if someone thinks they are symptomatic, or that they have been exposed to someone who has symptoms, they should not wait 48 hours,” she said.

jstroud@postindependent.com


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