Grand County at ‘critical point’ with COVID-19; health officials urge personal choices to slow spread

Sky-Hi News staff report
Eli Pace, editor of the Sky-Hi News, rolls up his sleeve for a COVID-19 vaccination during a vaccine clinic earlier this year in Grand County. According to Grand County Public Health, the vaccines are proving to be about 75% effective at preventing illness and 86-92% effective at reducing severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19.
Eli Pace/Sky-Hi News

The latest COVID-19 update from Grand County Public Health paints a grim picture locally with rising infections, limited hospital beds and heath department officials strongly urging the public to take better precautions.

“We are at a critical point,” Public Health Director and epidemiologist Abbie Baker wrote in a Friday update, adding that the county has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases among people 18 years old and younger.

According to the health department, many of these cases stem from exposures outside the school setting, such as social events and gatherings, where protective measures often are not in place. Infections have also spread within some local sports teams, both within and outside of the school districts.

At the same time, the county has reported four confirmed deaths caused by COVID complications in Grand since the beginning of September and a dramatic increase in demand for hospital care and ICU beds.

“We have an opportunity to prevent additional restrictions being imposed upon our county and prevent over running our already strained health care systems,” Baker warned. “Public health fully supports individual rights and decision-making in our community. In our community, even small, individual decisions can have a big impact. We need to take action.”

According to the health department, the vaccines are proving to be about 75% effective at preventing illness and 86-92% effective at reducing severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19.

“Our sincerest condolences go out to the families and friends of these individuals,” Baker said of the deceased, adding that Grand County Public Health can do a lot to slow the spread and provide understanding about the virus, but the department has little control over individual behavior, especially outside work or school.

Baker suggested that people should make the decision to protect themselves, Grand County’s students and the community as a whole by taking “every step necessary” to inhibit COVID-19’s opportunities to spread.

The recommendations are:

• Get vaccinated if eligible

• Wear a mask in public indoor spaces regardless of vaccination status

• Interact with others outdoors or in well ventilated places

• Practice social distancing by keeping six feet apart from people outside of your household

• Get tested if you are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19

• Stay home if you are sick or waiting for a test result

According to Baker, public mandates could help prevent some of the new cases, but the primary spread is happening outside of structured environments, where spacing and masking don’t typically occur.

She said that preventing the spread is a matter of choice and she’s urging people to avoid high-risk events, refrain from sending children with COVID-19 symptoms to school, and keep their distance between their household and others. While Baker acknowledged no vaccine is 100% effective at preventing illness, she said the goal is to prevent severe illness and death, and reduce the need for hospitalization.

Vaccines and testing

• COVID-19 vaccine is available in multiple locations in Grand County. For more,

• Public Health offers free rapid testing between 10 a.m. and noon on Tuesdays and Fridays at 620 Hemlock St., Hot Sulphur Springs. No appointment is needed, but this testing is not meant to fulfill employers’ need to have employees tested weekly to meet serial testing requirements. Public Health is working with Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to find a solution to accommodate these needs.

• According to Grand County Public Health, the most reliable test is a PCR test. If you have symptoms and receive a negative rapid test, you should follow up with your provider to confirm that negative test result.

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