National Guard/county to provide free COVID tests

Vaccines expected in Colorado within the next two weeks

[ By Katherine Nettles ]

Gunnison County has coordinated with the U.S. National Guard to set up a free mobile community testing event next week. The Curative test using PCR technology will show individuals a snapshot of if they are actively infected with the COVID-19 virus. The event will be free and open to anyone who wishes to receive a test.

The first test is scheduled for Thursday, December 17 from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Crested Butte Fire Station #4 (Buckhorn Airport), 104 S. Avion Drive. The second test is scheduled for Friday, December 18 from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Gunnison County Fairgrounds. For both testing events, lines will close at 5 p.m., but those in line at 5 will get tested.

The December 7 county update reminded people that more tests, even positive ones, don’t necessarily equal more public health restrictions but do help prevent the spread among asymptomatic cases, leading to overall lower rates.

“There is a perception that more positive tests mean more restrictions,” the update stated. “Our local Coronameter system looks at multiple data points before moving to tighter restrictions. An increase in positive cases alone doesn’t lead to more restrictions. In fact, our case rate and positivity work in concert. While we might catch some additional positive cases with our upcoming community testing event, we also likely will see many additional negative tests that would drive our positivity down.”

Vaccine update
“We’ve got some great news related to the COVID vaccine,” said Gunnison County public health director Joni Reynolds on December 3 during the weekly town hall update, which focused on vaccine updates and planning.
Phase One for allocating and administering a COVID vaccine is approaching quickly. The FDA Emergency Advisory Committee was scheduled to meet December 10 to discuss releasing the first vaccine by Pfizer, along with Pfizer’s supporting data and the FDA guidelines associated with it. Moderna will follow suit one week later with the same process, but has predicted it will have fewer initial doses available for distribution.

Reynolds said the procedural steps for review and approval is the same in the state, and Colorado is expected to receive between 46,800 and 150,000 Pfizer doses, and then another 15,000 from Moderna. “Those are for the state of Colorado, so our allocation in Gunnison would be a very small allocation,” she said. “But it does appear as though we will start to see doses in Colorado as early as the next two weeks.”

COVID numbers update
As of December 8, there had been a total of 594 positive, 5,702 negative and 59 pending COVID tests within Gunnison County since the pandemic began last spring. Two of seven indicators have been met that would move the county to the Yellow level of Gunnison County’s Coronameter. The indicators met include three or more days in a seven-day period with three or more positives per day, and a positivity rate of tests that remains well over the 5 percent threshold but has come down to 10.91 percent from over 16 percent in mid-November.

There are no COVID inpatients at the Gunnison Valley Hospital. The remaining indicators in the Coronameter are in regard to the local healthcare system’s ability to give care. While stable for now, there has been an increase in hospitalizations at the state level so county officials are monitoring those numbers closely.

Contact tracing app live
The state’s new exposure notification app is now live, and officials emphasize that even a small uptake of the app within the community can positively impact our outcomes. Community members opting in combined with other tools—social distancing, masks, hand hygiene—can continue to reduce the spread of the virus.

The main public health screening site is located at Gunnison Valley Health in the large north entrance parking lot and operates out of a shed. It is open Monday through Friday. Please contact the Call Center in advance to schedule an appointment at (970) 641-7660.

To pre-register for the Crested Butte event on December 17, visit https://curative.com/sites/15529/walkup#9/38.8309/-106.9095

The main public health screening site continues to be available as well at Gunnison Valley Health and remains open Monday through Friday. Testing at the regular site requires an appointment ahead of time, which can be made by calling (970) 641-7660.

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