State increasing county’s COVID restrictions after cases rise

Graphic courtesy CDPHE

Montrose County is moving up on the state’s “dial” for COVID-19 risks and restrictions.

Because of overall daily increases in case counts, the county is heading from the “cautious,” or blue level, to “concern,” or yellow, level, with the applicable restrictions going into effect 8 a.m. Friday.

The change in status is due to the number of cases in a two-week period, percent positivity and hospitalizations, which are all trending upward, county officials said.

“Overall, the number of positive cases is on the rise. The increase is due in part to both the cases linked to outbreak sites, but more importantly overall community and family transmission,” said Assistant Public Health Director Allison Howe, in a news release.

“Montrose County Public Health wants to stress the importance of having a plan for isolating and quarantining if someone in your family or residence becomes ill or tests positive.”

Montrose County’s numbers actually mean it could be placed even higher on the risk dial, at level orange, Dr. Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said, in a Tuesday letter to commissioners.

“ … we have decided that a gradual implementation of restrictions is suitable at this time,” she wrote. “As such, CDPHE is moving Montrose County to the COVID-19 Dial Level Yellow. CDPHE also reserves the right to move the county to a more restrictive level at any point, should circumstances warrant more aggressive sector restrictions.”

To have the state consider a lower notch on the dial, the county’s cases would need to come down and that lower number would need to hold for two weeks.

The CDPHE on Oct. 22 notified Montrose County Public Health that local incidence rates exceeded level blue thresholds, with a two-week COVID-19 case count of 39 and a percent positivity rate of 3.87, according to Hunsaker Ryan’s letter. The two-week cumulative incidence rate was 91.2 per 100,000 people, a statistical measure, as Montrose County does not have 100,000 residents.

As of Tuesday, the two-week cumulative incidence rate was 217.47 per 100,000 people; the percent positivity was 9.16 and the two-week case count of new cases was 93.

By the county’s numbers, 14 people have died due to COVID-19 since the start of cases here.

Being at the yellow level means some reductions in gathering sizes and business capacity.

At this level, gyms are reduced to 25% capacity, or to 50 patrons at a time. The capacity limits for most other sectors remain at 50%. Groups are limited to a maximum of 100 people indoors, and social distancing must be practiced.

Montrose County will remain at the yellow level until cases, percent of tests positive and hospital demand all fall.

Dr. Joe Adragna, Montrose County Public Health medical adviser, reiterated the need to engage in frequent hand-washing; mask-wearing and maintaining a social distance of at least 6 feet inside public places, as well as public walkways and outdoor spaces.

Those who are sick need to stay home and contact medical providers, in order to take care of themselves as well as to protect vulnerable people in the community.

“Doing so will preserve our healthcare system and our local businesses,” Adragna said in the county’s news release.

“This virus impacts all age groups and even though a 30-year-old is less like to be hospitalized, they may transmit the virus to a higher-risk person that ends up in the ICU. No matter your age, you have a role in this fight.”

Montrose County Public Health and Montrose Memorial Hospital continue working together to monitor hospital capacity. There has been a recent increase in hospitalizations due to the virus. Both entities stand at the ready to respond to a surge in hospital demand due to COVID cases.

“I want to assure you that we appreciate the unique challenges facing Montrose County and commend you for your efforts and diligence,” Hunsaker Ryan said in her letter.

“Stopping the spread of this persistent virus takes the cooperation of everyone consistently practicing good disease-prevention strategies and your partnership has been critical.”

In addition to moving to the yellow level on the state’s risk dial, starting Thursday, Montrose County will resume weekday reporting of local COVID stats, which formerly were provided once a week.

Earlier this week, the Montrose County Sheriff’s Office temporarily closed its administrative lobby to the public, while an employee there awaited test results after potential exposure from a family member.

The Montrose County School District also reported more confirmed cases among students and announced additional quarantines.

People who need tests should secure an order from their medical provider and go to the Montrose County Event Center, 1036 N. Seventh St. (off the San Juan Bypass).

Those without an order for testing can call Delta Public Health at 970-874-2165.

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{p class=”p1”}{span class=”s1”}Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.{/span}

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