Coronavirus cases are on the rise in Montrose County and, after learning of a “distant” exposure potential, the sheriff’s office has closed its lobby to the public as a precaution.
People who need to speak with someone in law enforcement, or who need to access administrative services at the Montrose County Sheriff’s Office, are asked to call dispatch at 970-249-9110. For emergencies, continue to use 911.
Undersheriff George Jackson said that an employee in the administrative division had a child test positive for COVID-19 and had come to work not knowing that. Out of an abundance of caution, the front lobby has been closed.
“The entire building has been disinfected. We made the decision that the employee is going to get tested and until we get the results of that, we’re going to run on a skeleton crew,” Jackson said.
The test was earmarked as that of a “first responder,” so he expects a quick turnaround.
“The chance anybody was infected on third-party contact is unlikely,” Jackson said. “But it’s better to overreact than under-react.”
People employed in the administrative division are doing as much work as possible remotely and by phone; patrol deputies remain available to respond to all calls and concerns as usual, although they have been directed to stay out of the admin offices as much as possible.
“We’re just eliminating the need to have someone in our lobby,” Jackson said.
So far, the Montrose County Jail has avoided having an inmate test positive for COVID-19.
Early during the pandemic, the MCSO began issuing summonses for offenses instead of making arrests, to the extent doing so was appropriate.
The agency ultimately cannot control who is booked into jail, however, as people are sentenced to county time, and other counties without jails contract with Montrose County to house inmates here.
The MCSO remains on high alert for COVID-19 within the inmate population. Every new inmate goes into an isolation period and anyone with symptoms remains isolated, Jackson said.
“We have a million-dollar-a-year medical team on staff. All the inmates are being monitored by them,” he said.
“We haven’t had to deal with it (a coronavirus case) yet. But when we do, we’re going to isolate them as well as possible. If that means removing them to the hospital and putting a corrections officer with them, we’ll do that.
“It’s imperative it doesn’t get here. That’s our biggest goal right now. The medical staff is all over that. They watch everything.”
The MCSO’s precautions came at about the same time as the Montrose County School District announced more quarantines of students after more confirmed positive tests. (See related story.)
According to the county’s most recently provided numbers from Nov. 5, cases here went up by 39 since Oct. 29 and the two-week percentage of positive is 7.5. Confirmed cases stood just shy of 500; total tests done at the time were 12,907, with 12,021 of these negative.
Fourteen Montrose County residents have lost their lives to the viral illness according to county numbers.
The new cases have been attributed primarily to community spread, including transmission by people who go to work sick, prompting Montrose County Public Health officials to reiterate previous warnings.
“It cannot be stressed enough, do not go to work, to the store, or out in public if you are sick,” Public Health said in the most recent update. “ … Please continue to help out the community by staying home if you are sick, assisting elderly family members and neighbors with groceries and other tasks to limit exposure and be kind, as the pandemic is wearing on all of us.”
Delta County also reports an increase in COVID cases; public health officials there urged people to take the disease seriously.
Both counties are currently listed at “level blue/safer at home — cautious” on the state’s risk dial. The dial is used as a standardized measure for levels of “openness” at county levels. Blue is the second least-restrictive level.
In Ouray County, a spike in cases led to it moving to level yellow — concern, a notch up on the dial from blue.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported 134,537 cases statewide and more than 1.35 million tests, with 2,179 deaths deemed due to COVID among the 2,408 deaths that occurred among individuals with the disease.
The swell of cases resulting in hospitalizations prompted Gov. Jared Polis to announce requirements to wear masks indoors for the next 30 days. Colorado is extending the statewide mask order for 30 more days.
Polis urged residents to interact only with those in their own household; maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from others and, again, to wear a mask.
“Colorado is issuing a requirement to wear a mask indoors for the next 30 days, and as hospitalizations increase everyone needs to do better by socializing only with those who you live with, wearing a mask and staying 6 feet apart, so we can get our numbers under control,” Polis said in his Monday announcement.
“Early in the pandemic you heard me talk about using a scalpel instead of a sledgehammer — and that’s exactly what we’re doing now.
“Each community in Colorado is experiencing this pandemic differently and we want to be precise in our methods. We also have significantly more information and better tools at our disposal than we did in March, and people know what to do, we just need to do it. Together, I know we can get our state back on track and save lives.”
Locally, testing is available for symptomatic people at the Montrose County Event Center (1036 N. Seventh St.), with a provider order for the test.
Those without an order, or who need a test for travel or personal reasons, should contact providers for an order or call Delta Public Health at 970-874-2165.
Visit covidtest.colorado.gov for a list of testing sites.
Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.