COVID-19 disease prevalence in Routt County officially on the decline — for now
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Routt County Public Health authorities have now officially declared a decrease in disease prevalence of COVID-19 in the community.
“We are approaching the two-week mark with no new cases of COVID-19. Disease prevalence appears to be very low — the lowest it has been since March,” said Dr. Brian Harrington, Routt County Public Health Medical Officer. “We have conducted 310 tests in the last two weeks, and our last positive was obtained April 30.”
While diagnostic tests were only available to those meeting the strictest of criteria for March and into April, they are now available at least twice per week for anyone experiencing symptoms, people working on the frontlines and people who think they may have come into contact with an infected person.
“Our community testing schedule has not been filled with residents calling for appointments, which also suggests that we do not have many community members with symptoms either,” Harrington said.
As of Thursday, 1,380 tests had been administered in Routt County with 64 confirmed cases. Of those, there have been six deaths and 56 cases listed as recovered. All six deaths occurred at Casey’s Pond.
“As has been the public health testing strategy from the beginning of this pandemic, testing vulnerable populations is our priority, and we are doing significant testing this week with vulnerable populations as a follow-up to previous testing campaigns launched since March,” said Routt County Director of Public Health Kari Ladrow in a news release.
So where does that put us on the epidemiological curve?
In terms of the mountain-like graphs, we have all been watching as they climb, level off and then decline — we aren’t in a period of retrospection, said Lauren Bryan, infection preventionist at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs. “We are now living in the outbreak in real time, and it’s not going to end anytime soon.”
It will be with us all summer and all fall, she said.
“Until we have a vaccine, we will have coronavirus outbreaks,” Bryan said.
It’s better to think of the graph “like an undulating waveform rather than a mountain,” Bryan said.
COVID-19 isn’t going to follow the typical short-term outbreak curve, because of the “the nature the beast.” There are several factors that make this virus different, Bryan explained, and still more unknowns at this time than knowns.
For one, “The wide incubation period really affects the data quality,” Bryan said.
There’s also the limited access to testing, primarily in those early weeks and months, she added.
Bryan credits the community for doing all the preventative things that have brought us to a place in which there hasn’t been a single new case in two weeks, but she has concerns about opening up the community.
“We are in a bubble right now, and that bubble is about to pop,” Bryan said.
Tourists will come back. Family members will visit each other. Part-time residents will return.
“When you zoom out six months from now, right now, we will probably be in a valley,” she said in terms of the epidemiological curve, “Then there will be a peak. It’s not over.”
Steamboat Emergency Center Dr. Jesse Sandhu pays close attention to the reproducibility quotient — the number that estimates how many other people each infected person infects.
“The goal is to get down to one,” Sandhu said.
A number under two — like influenza, which is considered to have a reproducibility rate of about 1.5 — is manageable, Sandhu said. A particularly bad strain of flu may be at 1.8, he said.
Nationwide, while the reproducibility quotient started around four or five, Sandhu said, it is now closer to about 2.5. However, Routt County is of course different demographically than a city or more densely populated area, he noted.
Sandhu sees Routt County as a potential model of success, in terms of catching the spread early in the infection rate, testing more at this time and tracking that data, including with antibody tests.
Right now, Sandhu doesn’t think very many positives are going undiagnosed.
“Since the safer-at-home phase was enacted at the state level, we have seen a decrease locally in positive cases identified, which is encouraging news,” Ladrow said. “We need to keep an eye on community health as more restrictions are lifted and the ongoing community commitment toward these efforts are appreciated.”
Bryan and Sandhu stress that now is not the time to let up on things like social distancing, hand washing, respiratory hygiene and other preventative measures — especially as more people from other parts of the state, country and world inevitably come into this community.
“Those basics do go a long way and will continue to protect us,” Bryan said. “We can’t let our guard down. We are protecting the entire community by doing these things.”
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