Public health reports outbreak of COVID-19 with ties to Grand County job site |

Public health reports outbreak of COVID-19 with ties to Grand County job site

Officials emphasize contact tracing to prevent spread

A sign on a local business's door reminds customers to to follow health guidelines.
McKenna Harford /

Grand County Public Health confirmed two new cases of COVID-19 that have ties to Grand County on Wednesday and reported an outbreak at a local job site.

County officials wouldn’t share which job site was involved but said the new cases are only considered an outbreak because the patients share housing. COVID-19 Response Team Commander Brad White said they are conducting testing at the site.

In one of the cases associated with the county, the patient is being hospitalized in Denver, White said. It’s the first hospitalization of a COVID-19 case with ties to Grand.

As of Wednesday, the county has had 18 confirmed cases of COVID-19. On Tuesday, three people were being isolated and 18 were being quarantined in connection to those cases, according to public health. Another five cases have been associated with the county.

People are asked to isolate after showing symptoms of COVID-19, while those in quarantine have been exposed to the disease.

“The case rate is still fairly low,” White said of Grand County’s total. “It’s kind of slow and steady where it seems like every week we’ve got one to two new cases, and certainly public health stays busy doing all the contact tracing and notifications.”

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, there have been almost 31,000 cases of COVID-19 in the state with around 5,300 hospitalizations and 1,455 deaths.

As with the previous cases, Grand County Public Health is conducting contact tracing, which might surface other connected cases.

“There may be a couple additional cases, most of those will be out of the area workers, we believe, but obviously (they were) spending time here in the county so it could be a lot of contact tracing work if we turn up some positive cases,” White said.

According to health officials, contact tracing is one key measure for preventing COVID-19 outbreaks, especially as businesses continue opening back up in the county. However, as restrictions loosen, contact tracing becomes more difficult.

With the latest amendment to the state’s Safer at Home order, the county’s previous variance is essentially null, and county officials are aligning their restrictions and guidelines with the state’s until further notice.

The amendment allows indoor events up to 100 people if the venue allows for it. Outdoor events can have as many as 175 people, and the state has outlined guidance for some events like fireworks. 

Currently, there are five contact tracers in the county working in a partnership with translators, and Grand County Public Health Director Brene Belew-LaDue said an outbreak at a 175-person event could be overwhelming.

This is partly because of the time it takes to trace someone’s contacts effectively. CDPHE estimates it takes five hours per person exposed to complete a thorough bout of contact tracing.

“Right now the amount of time it takes is going up because the amount of exposure to others and social interaction is going up,” said Alexis Kimbrough, a spokesperson for the county’s COVID-19 team. “When we had the Stay at Home order, those who were positive, they could remember who they had contact with because there weren’t that many. Now it’s become a day or more effort.”

Identify your risk

High Risk: 1) Individuals living in the same household as, 2) being an intimate partner of, or 3) providing care in a non- healthcare setting (such as a home) for a person with symptomatic laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infection without using recommended precautions for home care and home isolation

Medium Risk (assumes no exposures in the high-risk category): 1) Individuals who have close contact with a person with symptomatic, laboratory-confirmed COVID-19, or 2) Individuals on aircraft who are seated within 6 feet (2 seats in each direction) of a traveler with symptomatic, laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infection, or 3) Individuals living in the same household as, an intimate partner of, or caring for a person in a non-healthcare setting (such as a home) to a person with symptomatic, laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infection while consistently using recommended precautions for home care and home isolation

Low Risk (assumes no exposures in the high-risk category): 1) Individuals having been in the same indoor environment (e.g., a classroom, a hospital waiting room) as a person with symptomatic, laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 for a prolonged period of time but not meeting the definition of close contact.

No Identifiable Risk: Individuals having interactions with a person with symptomatic, laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infection that do not meet any of the high-, medium- or low-risk conditions above, such as walking by the infected person or being briefly in the same room (e.g. grocery stores).

*Information provided by Grand County COVID-19 Response Team

The process starts with one of the contact tracers getting in touch with the person who tested positive or was diagnosed with COVID-19. The tracer then helps the patient recall everyone the patient had prolonged, close contact with up to 48 hours before he or she experienced symptoms to the point of being isolated. 

“Having people remember is the biggest challenge,” Kimbrough said. 

According to Belew-LaDue, the goal is to reach anyone who might have been exposed within 24 hours of the exposure to stop the spread. Tracers also try to help patients recall where they went in the two weeks prior to being symptomatic so that health officials can try to determine where the patient caught the disease. 

From there, public health monitors the people in isolation and quarantine to ensure they are able to stay isolated and helps provide them with essentials during the 14-day period.

In order to maintain this process as restrictions loosen, officials say people must follow health guidelines to the best of their ability, including wearing masks, distancing themselves from others and limiting high risk activities.

White noted that these behaviors will hopefully allow the state to continue increasing gathering sizes and possible activities.

Locally, Belew-LaDue added that it will be important to stay on top of collecting data about events, positive cases, contact tracing efforts and compliance with public health orders to prevent outbreaks.

“We are asking that people send in compliance verifications for their businesses and events, so that we know what events are going on and what the plan is, because part of it is knowing how they plan to do the social distancing,” she said.

The Board of Grand County Commissioners expressed support for public health’s efforts on Tuesday, and commissioners said they would help provide more resources for contact tracing if the county needs them.

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