COVID-19 worse than ever in South Routt, medical official says
South Routt Medical Center currently seeing 18% to 20% positivity rate
Twenty months after the South Routt School District announced it would close because of a burgeoning coronavirus, COVID-19 is more prevalent in South Routt than ever before.
“The positivity rate here is pretty high. We’ve been seeing 18% to 20% within our community,” said Ken Rogers, district manager of South Routt Medical Center. “There is just so much COVID.”
Routt County’s overall infection rate is declining, but pockets of the county where vaccination rates are low are still seeing persistent cases. In South Routt, just 44% of residents are vaccinated, and it is even lower in West Routt at 39%, according to Routt County Public Health.
In Craig, where vaccination rates are lower still — 37% according to the New York Times — seven people that have tested positive for COVID-19 have died since Oct. 2, according to the Craig Press.
Rogers said in terms of cases and positivity rate, the pandemic has never been worse in South Routt than it is right now.
“At the beginning of the summer when we were seeing fairly robust vaccination rates and then all the mask mandates got dropped, everybody thought, ‘Oh great, it’s all over,’ whereas it really wasn’t,” Rogers said. “Couple that with the delta variant that basically is cutting through everything.”
In South Routt, it is a confluence of issues — low vaccination rates, people not properly quarantining and people not getting tested when they should — that are driving cases right now, Rogers said. He suspects the true infection rate is even higher than what is being seen through testing.
Rogers said it can be hard for people to understand how serious things are in South Routt because the state’s and county’s numbers are declining. But when isolating on a smaller community such as South Routt, it is clear the pandemic is far from over.
“We went to the (South Routt) school board a couple week back and just expressed our concern about the positivity rates and trying to nudge them to look at another mask mandate.
“We directly encouraged them to please consider it,” Rogers continued. “We can’t obviously demand anything, but we can certainly present to them what we’re seeing in terms of facts and what our position is in terms of the science behind mask mandates and vaccinations.”
Rim Watson, superintendent of South Routt schools, said the district has seen more cases in school so far this year than it had throughout the entirety of the past school year.
“It’s more intense here than it has been previously,” Watson said.
Adding a mask mandate was not an action item when Rogers spoke to the board in September, but Watson said the board listened and took what Rogers said under consideration, though it doesn’t plan to institute a mandate.
“I’’ll continue to monitor it, but as of right now, it is not an action item on our agenda,” Watson said, referring to the plan for the board’s meeting next week.
Only about 40% of the district’s staff and 30% of students eligible for the vaccine have been vaccinated, Watson said.
The district is taking a variety of measures in lieu of a mask mandate.
Watson said the school has purchased air purifiers to improve ventilation, there are a variety of extensive cleaning measures in place, windows are being kept open and students eat lunch outside as weather has allowed.
There was also a “mask ask” at the elementary school — where students are too young to be vaccinated — which has resulted in about 40% to 50% of students and about 80% of teachers wearing masks, Watson indicated.
“My parents are doing a great job of keeping kids home when they are sick, when they’re symptomatic,” Watson said, saying that has limited quarantines.
In an effort to spur more shots, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s vaccine bus will be at schools in the district next week. Rogers said he has all three vaccines at South Routt Medical Center, and people should call to set up an appointment.
The White House told governors Tuesday to expect to start vaccinating younger children between ages of 5 and 11 by the middle of November, according to ABC News.
“It is the best tool out there,” Routt County Public Health Director Roberta Smith said about vaccinations. “And for those that can’t be vaccinated, we need their families to be vaccinated to create that protective bubble within their household.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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