No new cases: For 1st time since start of pandemic, Routt County reported 0 positive COVID-19 results last week
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — For the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, Routt County had no new cases within a seven-day period last week.
Public Health Director Roberta Smith shared the good news with the Routt County Board of Health on Wednesday, encouraging the community to continue following the health guidelines she said have been instrumental in limiting the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The low disease prevalence comes with the caveat that some tests from last week are pending, which means positive cases could arrive in the future. That is what happened when results came back this week for two county residents who got tested on Aug. 17, Smith explained. Those two cases were added to the tally for the week of Aug. 17.
This is the first week the public health department is offering two community testing days on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena as a way to expand testing capacity. Last week, the county conducted 385 tests, according to epidemiologist Dr. Fritha Morrison.
“We have low prevalence in our community, and we seem to be testing enough for the number of cases we have at the moment,” Morrison said.
Now that the public health department has moved into the Routt County Courthouse, officials want to start offering tests at the nearby parking lot in addition to the rodeo grounds. Smith envisioned the system as similar to retro diners in which people park in the lot, call the health department and wait in their vehicles for nurses to arrive with COVID-19 tests.
“We won’t put the nurses on roller skates, though,” she added.
Starting next week, the health department will have an additional, full-time nurse to further expand testing capabilities. With the expanded staff, the county wants to offer more community testing in other municipalities.
Morrison is updating the case data to provide more information about new cases, including certain demographics, when people started showing symptoms and how they likely got infected. She also is adding a color-coded diagram to easily show the degree of disease spread in the community.
For Routt County’s population, seven cases or fewer within a two-week period means disease spread is low, eight to 13 cases is medium, 14 to 26 is high and more than 26 cases over a two-week period indicates very high incidence.
Currently, the county has a low disease spread, according to Morrison.
Caution for Labor Day
Ahead of Labor Day, Routt County Public Health Medical Officer Dr. Brian Harrington urged the public to remain vigilant about following health guidelines, such as maintaining social distancing and limiting gatherings.
As he pointed out, the two previous major holidays, Memorial Day and Fourth of July, were linked with spikes in cases in Routt County.
Oak Creek, south of Steamboat, is hosting a series of socially distanced Labor Day events on Saturday, including a parade, drive-in movie and more.
Contact tracing scams
Following a series of reported scams targeting contact tracing efforts in other parts of the state, Harrington explained how to notice fraudulent calls. Contact tracing is a legitimate strategy to identify people who might have contracted COVID-19 and prevent outbreaks. Public health officials might ask for one’s birthdate, but that is usually the extent of personal information they need.
Scammers have been trying to take advantage of the system, claiming to be a contact tracer and asking for people’s Social Security numbers and financial information.
According to the state health department’s website, contact tracers never will ask for the following information:
- A Social Security number or financial information
- Payment of any kind
- Proof of residency
No such hoaxes have been reported in Routt County, according to Harrington, but he wants the public to be aware of them.
Update on Protect Our Neighbors qualification
Routt County continues to work toward being eligible for the next phase of the recovery process, known as Protect Our Neighbors, but it is unclear when it will be able to move into that phase.
Commissioner Beth Melton said the county needs to meet two major requirements. The first is a set of public health metrics, such as low case counts and testing capacity. She believes the county currently meets all eight metrics.
The second requirement is developing a robust mitigation and containment plan to respond to a potential spike in cases in the future. The plan needs approval from and coordination with local partners, such as the hospital, municipalities and law enforcement.
“We aren’t there, yet. We have more work to do on that plan,” Melton said.
The county is working with local epidemiologist Dr. Mathew Christensen to devise the plan.
Neighboring Moffat County submitted a variance request Monday in an attempt to progress to the Protect Our Neighbors phase. Officials anticipate a 10 to 14-day waiting period to hear back from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment about the request.
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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.