Gunnison County COVID cases rise as summer ends

One death and five new hospital admissions this week

[ by Mark Reaman ]

Cases of the coronavirus continue to climb in Gunnison County. During the last few days of August through September 4, 65 new positive cases were recorded in the county. That is up from 50 new positive cases discovered in each of the two previous weeks and a summer average of about 30 per week in mid-summer and about 10 per week in early summer. Gunnison County public information officer Loren Ahonen said that while the county continues to evaluate conditions in the community, there are no immediate plans to impose new health regulations.

Along with the rise in positive coronavirus cases, unfortunately, a COVID death was recorded this week as well. Ahonen confirmed the latest fatality brings the total to nine for Gunnison County. He said that Gunnison County Health and Human Services was informed that a Gunnison County resident died on August 31. An 80-year-old male was seen in the Gunnison Valley Hospital Emergency Room in mid-August before being transferred to a facility in El Paso County where he passed away after extensive treatment.

“It is with sadness and a heavy heart that we are confirming a ninth member of our community has died from COVID-19,” said Gunnison County director of public health Joni Reynolds. “We offer our deepest condolences to the family, friends and those in our community impacted by this loss.”

Ahonen said that week-to-week, Gunnison Valley Health continues to see individuals with COVID-19 admitted to Gunnison Valley Health and treated appropriately based on their level of illness. In the most recent week, there were five new admissions at the local hospital. Additionally, patients who need a higher level of care continue to be transferred to out-of-county hospital systems and two such transfers took place last week. One was transferred upon going to the Emergency Room while the other was one of the five patients admitted to GVH.

The county is not aware of any pop in cases at the local schools or Western Colorado University. Ahonen said that statewide, data continues to indicate that the significant majority of ‘breakthrough’ cases are mild to moderate and the majority of hospitalizations in ‘breakthrough’ cases are individuals over the age of 70.

“A majority of the cases in our testing come from full-time residents of our community. However, case investigations and contact tracing continue to show positive tests inclusive of county year-round residents, part-time residents, and visitors,” Ahonen explained. “The COVID-19 Delta variant is spreading in Gunnison County, the Western Slope, across Colorado and nationally. The Delta variant is more contagious than previous variants and spreads more readily from person to person. The exposure risks for the recent local cases are varied including unvaccinated individuals, people who conducted recent travel or those who had recent attendance at a large gatherings.”

Testing for those with symptoms, a known exposure or other personal needs continues to be available through a partnership with Gunnison Valley Health. To schedule testing, please call 970-641-3244 to find an appointment. Testing is available Monday-Friday on a daily basis. Consistent testing helps appropriately identify positive cases and do thorough contact tracing to help contain the spread of COVID-19 in our community.

The county is keeping an eye on whether booster shots will be needed for those already vaccinated. Ahonen said Gunnison County has increased its vaccination operations planning to be responsive to the expected need of delivering booster doses in our community in the coming months. While planning and organizing are underway, he said there are important details to be considered that will only become available with the final recommendation of the CDC and FDA. It is important to note that as of this writing the only individuals eligible for an additional/booster dose are those who are moderately to severely immunocompromised.

So far, more than 70 percent of eligible individuals in the county have received a vaccine. The county emphasizes continuing to take precautions against the virus. Ahonen said including layers of protection and mitigation are effective strategies for limiting COVID-19 transmission. “Gunnison County continues to encourage folks to vaccinate, consider ventilation – particularly in large indoor crowds, and to wear a facial covering in public,” he said.

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