Gunnison County walking fine line of coronavirus positives

Western spiking. Testing getting clogged up

[ By Mark Reaman ]

The number of positive coronavirus cases continues to climb in Gunnison County, with 39 positives reported in October and at least 13 new cases already reported in the first four days of November. It appears there is a recent spike on the campus of Western Colorado University. If the trend continues, the county could go back to tighter COVID-19 restrictions.

“The numbers indicate continued positive tests in Gunnison County residents. The main pattern of risks we are seeing include travel out of the county and informal non-household gatherings/contacts. It appears we have a trend that is mirroring the state and national picture,” said Gunnison County public information officer Andrew Sandstrom. “We all understand people are tired of dealing with the measures that stop the spread of the virus but we can’t get too fatigued. It is those measures that have kept this county relatively open compared to other counties in Colorado.”

Of the recent positives coming back, Sandstrom about half are coming from Western. “The last update I had, there were 18 positives at Western,” he said Wednesday. “All students in contact tracing or those with positive results are being quarantined on campus.”

Because the entire state is seeing a rise in cases, Colorado is struggling to keep up with COVID-19 testing. So Sandstrom said Gunnison County is moving to a path of sending tests to third-party labs like the Mayo Clinic and Curative. “In addition, we are exploring any additional testing options, including rapids or other labs,” he said. “Right now it is expected that Gunnison Valley Health will pick up the tab with some of its CARES funding for the new testing costs.”

Meanwhile the state is consolidating health orders that could impact the local transit agencies. Public Health director Joni Reynolds last week issued her approval to increase capacity on both the Mountain Express and the RTA buses this winter. She is now analyzing the new state mandates to see if there will be capacity issues and is meeting with representatives of the transit agencies later this week.

Reynolds said she is concerned about the increase in positives across the county as we are currently in sync with the worrisome trends across the state.

Generally the county’s incident command team understands the inclination of humans to want to continue to socialize, but that is what leads to further spreading of the virus. “The collective team in Gunnison County is incredible and there is a great deal of alignment and team approaches with the COVID response,” said Sandstrom. “This is a time of fatigue for many counties, yet Gunnison County continues to be strong and united. We need to keep that up and remain vigilant with doing the things that keep us in better shape than other places.”

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