As new COVID-19 cases are confirmed, Routt board of health discusses out-of-area travel guidelines, testing efforts
Commissioners discuss local restaurant said to be in violation of public health orders
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — With several of the recent positive cases of COVID-19 in Routt County being from those who had traveled outside the state, the Routt County Board of Health is now considering guidelines for public travel.
The board met Wednesday to discuss the need for out-of-state travel guidance, which Dr. Brian Harrington, Routt County Public Health medical officer, recommended to be implemented by the county.
“Throughout this pandemic, we have had questions about travel and if people should self-quarantine upon return to Routt County, especially if they visited an area with a rising or high prevalence of COVID-19 infections,” Harrington said.
According to Harrington, several local businesses and organizations have reached out to the Routt County Public Health department asking for guidance for employees who plan to travel. To highlight the risk of travel, Harrington referred to five recent local COVID-19 cases being residents who had traveled to other states with high cases of COVID-19 and contracted the virus.
The department is working on establishing guidance related to travel risk and quarantine suggestions for when individuals travel outside of the county, especially to hot spots.
“We are supportive of this type of guidance because you think it is important, and it will make a difference in the public health of our community,” Routt County Commissioner Tim Corrigan said.
The guidance will be released for the public once it is finalized.
2 new positive COVID-19 cases
Two additional positive cases of COVID-19 were identified Tuesday by the county health department. An asymptomatic teenage male and a symptomatic male in his 20s tested positive and are now reportedly recovering in quarantine. The total positive cases within the county is now 79.
According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Routt County is considered to be in a medium range of virus suppression based on the number of cases in the past two weeks.
“We continue to have a high number of people who get tested,” Kari Ladrow, Routt County public Health director, told the commissioners during the meeting. On Wednesday, 86 were signed up to receive testing for COVID-19. “We have a mixture of symptomatic people and asymptomatic individuals and others who may have been in contact with a positive case.”
This week, the county public health department is testing symptomatic patients in relation to a cluster of cases. Going forward, Ladrow said, symptomatic individuals are asked to contact their medical provider for testing.
“Other providers in the community will continue to augment our community’s testing capability by providing more testing,” she added.
Though for those who are believed to be asymptomatic, 50 slots will be reserved during Wednesday testing sessions conducted by the department.
With the increase in local cases, Routt County does not qualify to move to the next stage of reopening, called Protect Our Neighbors, steps for which state health officials announced Tuesday.
A main component of the next stage is the ability for communities to allow activities at 50% of pre-pandemic capacity, with at least 6 feet between non-household members and no more than 500 people in one setting at a time.
State officials said that most other Colorado communities would not immediately be eligible for this next phase either. Communities can only apply for the new stage if they meet eight criteria, including declining COVID-19 cases and capacity for testing, contract tracing and outbreak response.
Restaurant allegedly in violation
After it was announced Tuesday that a local restaurant was said to have repeatedly violated county public health orders, the board of health discussed enforcement of the orders at businesses.
The county public health department received several complaints of noncompliance at a particular restaurant within the county. Among other issues, it was said that rules regarding maintaining customer contact information were not being enforced and, as a result, contract tracing was not possible after a symptomatic individual had dined at the restaurant.
The name of the restaurant was not released publicly — a matter commissioners further discussed Wednesday. Commissioners were hesitant to release such information and acknowledged they had not verified the complaints against the restaurant.
“I don’t think we can release a naughty list of the businesses that are not complying, but it is not fair to all the others that are following the rules,” Commissioner Doug Monger said. “I always talk about personal responsibility; we need business responsibility, too.”
Commissioners agreed that most restaurants in Routt County have so far been in compliance with public health orders, but that there are businesses not taking the orders seriously.
“All of these locations reside in our municipalities, and we look to the towns of Steamboat Springs, Oak Creek and Hayden to help us ensure that customers and employees are safe,” Corrigan said.
The county’s legal counsel and officials with the Routt County Department of Environmental Health discussed what options there are to be taken against those businesses found to be in noncompliance on a regular basis, which could include revoking the business’ license.
“We do not take it lightly to shut down a business, and our first goal is voluntary compliance,” Commissioner Beth Melton said. “At the same time, we would not hesitate to shut down a business if that was needed and appropriate.”
If employees are not consistently wearing masks, if there is not social distancing or if a restaurant does not ask its patrons to sign a form for contact tracing, then leave, Melton said.
“We should all support those businesses doing the right thing, and you don’t have to patronize a location that does not take the health of our community seriously,” she said.
To reach Bryce Martin, call 970-871-4206 or email bmartin@SteamboatPilot.com.
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