County COVID numbers quadruple

A thirteenth fatality reported

[ By Katherine Nettles ]

After a brief period of stability and relatively low COVID numbers, the holiday season has brought a big spike in positive cases in the Gunnison Valley. According to Gunnison County Public Health, confirmed positive cases jumped from 11 in the third week of December to 42 cases last week, and another 51 positive cases have been confirmed in just the first half of this week. Several restaurants in Crested Butte have been impacted and closed temporarily due to COVID cases among employees in the past two weeks, and officials expect that more cases will be confirmed after the holiday rush. They also expect cases will prove to be primarily of the Omicron variant. More patients have been seeking care, been hospitalized and sadly, a thirteenth fatality attributed to the virus has occurred among Gunnison County residents.

Gunnison County public information officer Loren Ahonen reported that last week, 13 COVID positive patients sought care across the Gunnison Valley Hospital system, and one patient was admitted for COVID-19 treatment. After a decline in hospitalizations across the state in recent weeks, the trend reversed last week as hospitalizations increased. Of hospitalized individuals in Colorado, 81 percent are unvaccinated.

Ahonen explained that given the limited testing and lag in reporting during Christmas week, the positive case number was likely an incomplete picture of the positive results and cases within the valley. That proved true by Wednesday, December 29 as another 51 cases were confirmed.

“The nurses are going full steam on case investigation and contact tracing,” commented Ahonen, and while there have not been any confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in Gunnison County, public health officials believe it is in the valley and just hasn’t been identified in a 14-day lab process.

“We expect the variant is here at this time. Statewide, the sequencing process to identify variants is revealing Omicron as the leading variant and it is likely to be the only variant detected by the end of the week,” said Ahonen.

Sadly, Gunnison County reports the recent death of a thirteenth county resident. A female in her mid-70s died at an out-of-county hospital system in mid-December. Gunnison County public health Director Joni Reynolds commented, “We regret the loss of another citizen and another thread in our community fabric. Particularly during the holiday season these losses feel particularly poignant to family and loved ones. Gunnison County sends our condolences to those impacted.”

Gunnison County will be hosting a community-wide COVID-19 booster clinic on January 6, at the Fred Field Center from 3:30 – 6:30 p.m. Additionally, the CDPHE mobile vaccine bus will begin making three-day stints in Gunnison County starting on January 14.

Public health officials encourage all residents and visitors to work together to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and the associated impact on the community. The main recommendation is testing at the first sign of even minor symptoms such as nasal congestion or a scratchy throat, and getting a booster, or if not yet vaccinated, taking that first step.

This week the Center for Disease Control shortened the recommended isolation period to five days – provided an individual is not currently experiencing symptoms. Those who have had a booster or a primary vaccination series less than six-months ago do not have to quarantine after an exposure but are recommended to mask and test five days after exposure.

Visit: https://covid19.gunnisoncounty.org for information on where to obtain a COVID-19 vaccination or testing.

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