County implements more restrictive COVID restrictions given worrying trend

Gathering numbers reduced. Isolate after leaving the county.

by Mark Reaman

While there is not panic given the recent significant rise in positive coronavirus test results coming in recently both throughout Colorado and in Gunnison County, local officials are saying there is “major concern.” And they are implementing steps to try and turn the trend around.

Through the first five days of November, the county has recorded 24 new positives and Thursday afternoon county public health director Joni Reynolds implemented two mitigation measures meant to address the situation. Gathering capacity of people, both indoors and outside will be reduced — going to a maximum allowance of 50 people outside and 25 people inside. Prior to November 5, the county had allowed 250 people to gather outside with public health approval and up to 50 people indoors. The county is also recommending planning for future event sizes of 25 outdoors and 10 indoors. The second mitigation measure is a recommendation that if you leave Gunnison County for more than 24 hours, you should isolate yourself for seven days upon returning.

The new mitigation measures will not impact local schools, churches or local businesses for the time being. “We want to manage the pandemic as much as possible on a local basis, but we are under state health orders, “ Reynolds said Thursday afternoon. “Schools appear to be one the best managed groups in this pandemic so there is no action being taken at this time to change their situation. I am continuing to work with the school superintendent to keep the schools safe.”

The state of Colorado is seeing coronavirus cases increase and its modeling shows that ICU capacity in Colorado could be completely full by the middle of December if the trend continues.

“We are seeing extremely worrying trends continue around the state and seeing some big results coming back in the county,” explained Gunnison County public information officer Andrew Sandstrom. “We had 16 positive tests results recorded on November 2 alone. The good news is that about half of those were already in quarantine after using our contact tracing protocols, so we are staying on top of it.”

Sandstrom said the county’s COVID case count has exceeded the numbers allowed in the current state level we are in known as Protect Our Neighbor. Because the county is now out of alignment with the two of the state’s  health metrics for the Protect Our Neighbor status the county was asked to impose mitigation measures to address the situation or lose the status and see tighter restrictions imposed by the state.

“Our goal is to not lose the ground we have gained by being diligent,” said Sandstrom. “The new measures are slightly more restrictive than what the county’s Blue risk level calls for but hopefully they keep us relatively open. We continue to be better off than most other counties in Colorado and we need to step it back up.”

Another piece of good news noted by Sandstrom is that while hospitalizations for COVID related incidents are skyrocketing around the state, already meeting the peak seen in April, there have been no people hospitalized in Gunnison County for COVID in months. “We are monitoring not only GVH but our transfer facilities like the hospitals in Montrose and Grand Junction. So far, so good,” he said.

Given the trend line, Sandstrom said the Gunnison County Incident Command is staying aware. “We are going to be meeting more frequently and keeping a really close eye on things,” he said. “We are gearing back up given the way the trend is going. Now we need to once again come together as a community and take the actions that have worked in the past to keep us ahead of other places.”

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