Case count potential threat to reopening

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by Marissa Lorenz
As of July 14, 2020, Grand County was reporting a total of 29 known cases of COVID-19 among residents, with nine new cases being confirmed in the last two weeks, putting the county into a “High Disease Transmission Rate” category, given the most recent metrics set by the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment.

That category is defined, in communities with a population under 30,000, to be seven or more new cases in a two-week period.

While Grand County Public Health (GCPH) has previously been resistant to breaking case counts down into more specific geographic areas, on Tuesday Public Health Administrator and Program Manager Abbie Baker reported eight total cases in Kremmling, three in Hot Sulphur Springs, nine in Granby, two in Grand Lake, and seven in the Tabernash/Fraser area. Additional cases of non-residents have been associated with all the towns.

GCPH indicates that being in the “High Transmission” category means that the county does not meet the State’s criteria to apply for the Protect-Our-Neighbors phase of reopening and that it may impact the county’s economic recovery.

“If our cases continue to rise, other qualifying metrics, such as sufficient hospital bed capacity, sufficient PPE supply, sufficient testing capacity, the ability to implement case investigation and contact tracing protocol could also be in jeopardy,” according to the most recent update.

Still no countywide mask mandate, as towns pass orders The Grand County Board
of County Commissioners (BOCC) revisited the issue of a mask mandate on Tuesday, with conversation becoming emotional.

Commissioner Rich Cimino read a prepared statement, stating, “Last week I said, ‘I do not support a countywide mask requirement.

I favor voluntary compliance.’
I wish to say now that I was wrong.” Among other concerns, he mentioned businesses being able to stay open and schools being able
to return in the fall, and said he encouraged town trustees to adopt a mask ordinance for their towns.

Cimino motioned that masks be required when inside shared public/business spaces where social distancing requirements cannot be met, but was the only supporting vote. Commissioner Merrit Linke pointed to Grand County’s low population density and enforcement challenges and stated that he was not willing to change his mind on a mandate, though he “strongly encourages” mask-wearing. And Commission Chair Kristen Manguso shared that her own husband is high-risk but agreed with Linke. “There are options for people who are worried [to protect themselves].” All three leaders agreed that Grand County’s case count until now is low and reflects compliant behavior.

Grand County Public Health Director Brene Belew-Ladue, who had encouraged a mask mandate for the second week in a row, responded to the vote by saying that she thinks an order is necessary for the County’s containment plan and that her “next step is a public health order.” “If I am not protecting the health of the public,” she concluded, “then I’m not doing my job.”

The Towns of Fraser, Winter Park, and Grand Lake have all voted to put mask orders in place. Kremmling Mayor Grover Pryor submitted a letter to the Board on behalf of the Kremmling Trustees, expressing opposition to a facemask mandate. The Granby Town Board did not reach a decision on the issue at Tuesday’s regular meeting. They will hold a special meeting Monday, July, 20, at 5:30pm to address this single topic. The State of Colorado does not have a mask order at this time.

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