Letter: Grand County Public Health director wants to clarify department’s actions
Editor’s note: This letter to the community was submitted by Grand County Public Health Director Abbie Baker on Monday.
I feel the need to clarify the actions taken by the Grand County Public Health Department (GCPH).
Our county has had sustained increased case counts since mid-January. Until the end of January, the cases were spread across the county. However, in the last few weeks, there has been a substantial trend of cases coming from Fraser and Winter Park residents.
With the sustained high transmission rates for Grand County, we were in a situation where we needed to move into Level Red restrictions for at least part of the county by Saturday, February 13. Fortunately, thanks to our lower hospitalization rates and our population being less than 20,000 residents, we had the opportunity to be selective with how we moved to Level Red restrictions.
With 70% of the cases in the last 14 days coming from Winter Park and Fraser, my initial proposal to the State (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, CDPHE) was to focus Level Red restrictions in those towns with the highest transmission. Upon further analysis of case investigations, there were three specific locations in Fraser and Winter Park indicated as common sources of viral spread.
I proposed to the state that we use this data to focus our increased restrictions on only those locations where transmission is occurring, and they agreed to let us use this approach. Two of the three businesses are small, locally owned businesses. In an effort to maintain working relationships with those businesses, we opted not to call them out by name. They are not a threat to community health at this point in time. Those businesses have met the additional restrictions willingly and have not been asked to close. Local support resources have been applied to help these businesses survive the reduction in business. Thank you to the Town of Fraser, the Town of Winter Park, Winter Park/Fraser Police Department, Winter Park Resort, Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, and Dr. Darcy Selenke for contributing to these conversations and working with the public health department and local businesses.
While unconventional, this approach seemed a better alternative than implementing Level Red restrictions across the entire county and/or enforcing Level Red restrictions on all restaurants in Fraser and Winter Park. If this approach does not result in lower transmission rates for Grand County, there will be expansion of higher restrictions. Yet, if our case rates decline more rapidly than expected, there is also an opportunity to lift restrictions more quickly.
Public Health has been working with Winter Park Resort since before they opened in December to try to mitigate disease spread. Until recently, their efforts had the desired effect. They provide alternate isolation locations for positive cases, testing for employees, and have a robust contact tracing program. They are willing to terminate employees that are not cooperating with isolation or quarantine orders and have followed through. They have also implemented stricter policies in their employee housing with the same consequence of termination for non-compliance. Despite the Resort Management’s best efforts to contain the spread among employees, GCPH, in consultation with the State and Winter Park Resort, decided to declare an outbreak at the Resort not only to inform the community of the situation but also to provide increased support from the State on testing options, analysis of protocols, and containment efforts.
It is important to remember that our residents’ and visitors’ response to the containment protocols affects us all. Personal behaviors have a greater impact on our ability to open than business operations. I know our community can continue to pull together to get us through to recovery. I know we can do better – follow masking and distancing guidance, limit your exposures, get tested and stay home when you are sick, and when you are able to, get the vaccine.
I want to see us go from 2nd highest transmission in the State to one of the lowest as soon as possible. That depends on how we pull together and respond now. We can do this!
Your new Grand County Public Health Director,
Abbie Baker-MPH, CHES
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