by Marissa Lorenz
As of Wednesday, December 2, and nearing the end of a two-week “Phase Orange” strategy to reduce the rising incidence of COVID-19 cases in the county, Grand County Public Health reported 452 total positive cases.
The county’s two-week case count had gone up again to 188 and the two-week case rate was 1,212.9/100,000, based on Grand County’s population of around 15,000 people. Current quarantine and isolation numbers were unavailable.
Public health professionals across the state have been concerned about an even greater spike in cases following the Thanksgiving holiday. And the Grand County COVID-19 web-page posted a new message to residents, stating:
“We hope that our community has had a restful and enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday. As we look towards returning to school and work, please be aware that we continue to see high levels of COVID-19 in our community. If anyone in a household is ill, everyone should stay home until you know for sure if it is COVID-19 or not.
“Many people who are ill with it, have mild symptoms like a runny nose or stuffy nose or fatigue. Please reach out to a health care provider to help you figure out what the illness might be. Lastly, if you have traveled out of the area and/or had gatherings with extended family or friends, please self-quarantine for seven days in case you were exposed. This will help prevent bringing or spreading more COVID-19 on our community.”
11 new outbreaks confirmed
Numerous outbreaks have been discovered in the previous few weeks, and the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment reported 10 active outbreaks in Grand County as of Wednesday, including the Best Western Alpenglo Lodge, Winter Park Mountain Lodge, and a bar in Winter Park; the Camber Brewing Company in Fraser; Igadi Dispensary and Grand County Christian Academy in Tabernash; and the Town of Kremmling and the West Grand K-8 School in Kremmling.
The Town of Kremmling office staff has returned to work after experiencing mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms, and the K-5 students have returned to in-person learning at the K-8 school while the 6-12 grades continue to utilize remote learning options. Those who test positive for COVID-19 are allowed to return to work after 10 days from the onset of their symptoms.
Two additional outbreaks were reported at a social gathering at which four attendees were infected and a Wilderness First Responder Class in which a staff member infected three class participants.
The Grand County Joint Information Center further confirmed an outbreak at the West Grand High School, but declined to comment on recent closures at the Kremmling Post Office and Middle Park Health’s Kremmling Clinic.
During their regular update to the Board of County Commissioners, Public Health representatives noted that 63% of the total cases in Grand County were recorded in the month of November. Testing continues to expand County Medical Director Dr. Darcy Selenke gave updated testing information during the same meeting, saying that “our testing availability and capability is in fantastic shape.”
Selenke reported that over 1,800 tests had been performed in November, including 926 by Public Health to directly address outbreaks and known close contacts. She noted that pharmacies in the county are now offering rapid testing and the Town of Winter Park is moving forward with a plan to provide testing as well.
GC Public Health is also preparing to roll-out “regular routine testing site” that will be in “almost every township, twice a week, for three hour periods,” according to Selenke. The program will be led by Grand Fire Chief Brad White and will focus on testing frontline workers and cases of known close contact, as identified through contact tracing.
Selenke also noted that quarantine times may be reduced in the near future to 7-10 days, after which individuals would be permitted to return to work or school following a negative test.
In response to questions from the Board, it was clarified that individuals in quarantine who chose not to test would still have to remain in quarantine for the full 14 days. Testing turnaround times vary, depending on the test and facility, ranging from 15 minutes for Public Healths rapid antigen test, to an hour to two days for a PCR test done at Middle Park Health or Denver Health, to 9-10 days if sent to the State lab.
Public Health also noted that they are preparing for a vaccine tiered disbursement plan that would begin by providing vaccines primarily to first responders and health care workers. Selenke stated that vaccines may be ready for distribution in as early as two to four weeks. Those vaccines will require a two-shot regimen within a month of each other.