Near normal: County to drop most coronavirus restrictions

But the virus doesn’t disappear on Friday

[ by Mark Reaman ]

You can put away your facemasks (in most places) and celebrate a giant step back to “normal” this Friday, May 28 after enduring 15 months of protocols and restrictions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Gunnison County will officially transition to the “Green” level of COVID-19 restrictions, which basically eliminates social distancing and occupancy limits and mandates wearing face masks in only a few cases.

County health officials have said that once 10,000 county residents were fully vaccinated, the move to “Green” would take place. That is expected to happen Friday. “Based on our current fully vaccinated population (9,681) and our upcoming clinics this week, we will be exceptionally close to the 10,000 mark by May 28,” explained Gunnison County public information officer Loren Ahonen. “By week’s end we should be at about 98-percent of our target vaccinated population. We will likely eclipse the 10,000 threshold with second-doses in our clinics next week. However, Friday 5/28 will mark the official transition to Green in expectation that we will finish up the remaining second-dose delivery.”

So as of Friday, we will be as close to a normal situation as we have been since March of 2020. But that doesn’t mean everything will be the way it was before the pandemic started. Businesses can choose to continue requiring masks be worn on their premises. Until July 1 the county is still requiring masks be worn in healthcare locations, schools and childcare centers, on public transportation like the Mountain Express, at jails/prisons and at any business or setting requiring a facial covering.

“At this point, ‘normal’ is a relative term,” said Ahonen. “There will inevitably be a spectrum of response to the Green transition and we expect that. Some entities will continue with facial covering requirements while others may not and individuals will have a range of risk aversion. This same dynamic is playing out across Colorado communities and we ask that everyone be respectful of other’s boundaries.

“The pandemic does not end on Friday,” Ahonen continued when asked about the influx of tourists that will come to the valley this summer. “The coronavirus will still exist in our community. Many communities in Colorado and across the country are experiencing low-vaccination rates and subsequently higher-levels of COVID-19. The best protection against continued infection, associated with variants or otherwise, is to get vaccinated if you have not already. Gunnison County has achieved a high level of community protection but that does not mean infection and community transmission will effectively end. As we progress through the summer it’s essential for individuals to recognize and interpret appropriate levels of risk. The risk of COVID-19 infection in Gunnison County is not the same as in neighboring communities.”

Ahonen said that as of early this week, 20 of Colorado’s 64 counties still have a public health order in place. Many of the larger Front Range counties have entered ‘Level Clear’ which is quite similar to our Green Level on the Coronameter.

The county reported this week that a resident from Marble died recently from COVID-19. Gunnison County Health and Human Services on Monday announced its sixth death from the coronavirus (COVID-19). The State uses a different metric and will report seven deaths for Gunnison County. The individual was a female in her 60’s who sought care outside of Gunnison County and passed away on the Front Range after a long struggle with COVID-19.

Overall, Gunnison County has done a pretty good job coming together to fight the virus. “Collectively, we have responded to the Coronavirus pandemic. Over the last 15 months the community’s aggregated response to the pandemic has gotten us to this point,” Ahonen said. “The high-rates of vaccination, and the resulting protection offered, are a testament to the community-level response we’ve seen throughout Gunnison County. While many rural communities are struggling to achieve robust levels of vaccination, Gunnison County has done just the opposite thanks to the community’s engagement, the legions of volunteers, and the various organizations staffing the vaccine clinics.”

Again, just because the county is going to Green doesn’t mean the virus is not here. There have been three positive tests in the county in the last seven days.

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