Restrictions on local gatherings tighten as state officials amend Safer At Home order
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Personal gatherings across Colorado — including in Routt County — are now limited to 10 people from no more than two separate households.
The more restrictive limits are the latest attempt by state officials to reign in the pandemic as cases spike across the state with Colorado recording 1,156 new positive COVID-19 cases Saturday.
“Right now, the virus is spreading when people from multiple households attend gatherings,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, in a Friday press release. “We need to keep gatherings smaller and with people from fewer households.”
The state health department amended its Safer at Home order to further limit personal gatherings at all levels of the plan. Routt County is currently in Level 1, which, before Friday’s order, allowed up to 25 people to gather.
In Routt County and 28 other counties, personal gatherings are now limited to 10 people. The order does not affect five counties that are currently in the lowest, Protect Our Neighbors level.
The revised state order comes as Routt County Commissioners had already discussed implementing a countywide public health order in response to 21 new positive cases last week. While commissioners were open to a more restrictive order, they favored mitigation efforts that would not impose new restrictions on gathering.
The state order does not apply to restaurants, which already limit parties to 10 guests. It also does not change things in schools and other places that already have specific guidance about gathering limits.
Another change in the order allows counties to jump multiple levels in the Safer At Home dial at once and gives state health officials the ability to change the county’s level quicker than previously outlined.
Routt County is currently in a four-week mitigation effort to remain in Level 1. The new order could allow the state health department to move Routt County to another level before the end of the four-week timeframe.
“We are asking everyone to shrink their bubble to reduce the spread,” Hunsaker Ryan said. “Help us save lives and avoid stricter public health orders in the future.”
The updated restrictions of gathering sizes directly prompted the cancellation of at least one local event that was scheduled for Saturday, the Paws & Reflect Petwalk and Proclamation held by Advocates of Routt County.
As of Friday, the state health department recorded 200 total positive COVID-19 cases in Routt County while the county’s dashboard, which is several days behind in its data, still reports 194.
Should I get tested?
Sure, why not? Diagnostic testing is widely available and insurance companies are required by law to cover it. Cases are increasing locally, across the state, and across the country. And epidemiologists only predict it will get worse with cold weather and as people spend more time indoors. Everyone is sick of it, but now — as much as ever — it is time to remain vigilant in order to protect the most vulnerable in the community, keep our local health care resources from being overwhelmed, and keep our schools, businesses, and public places as open as possible.
If you don’t have insurance, make an appointment through the Routt County Public Health Department, or at the South Routt Medical Center in Oak Creek.
If you are exhibiting symptoms, you should definitely get tested, and self-quarantine until you receive your results. COVID-19 is a respiratory disease. Its primary objective is to attack the lungs. However the symptoms can vary widely, and it can be difficult to distinguish COVID-19 from influenza or the common cold. One of the most distinguishing symptoms is the loss of taste or smell. If you have questions or concerns, call your health care provider.
Symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
Look for emergency warning signs for COVID-19. If someone is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion
- Inability to wake or stay awake
- Bluish lips or face
(Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
If you have been in close contact with a positive case, you should get tested.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just redefined their definition of “close contact.” Previously, it had been based on being within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 consecutive minutes. The CDC now defines close contact as someone who was within 6 feet of a positive case for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period — meaning that could be intermittently for just a minute or two at time.
If you don’t have any symptoms, you could be one of the approximately one quarter of people who get COVID-19 but are asymptomatic. Testing, while slightly uncomfortable, cannot hurt. If you are exposed to numerous different people on a daily basis, it cannot hurt to get tested. And, the county likes to maintain a good number of people who are getting testing on a weekly basis — it is better for a more accurate picture of disease prevalence. Also, the more people who get tested — the lower the county’s positivity rate. However in terms of categorizing disease spread, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment relies more on the number of positive cases per 100,000 people.
It is important to remember, however, that a test is merely a snapshot of a brief moment in time. You could contract COVID-19 on the way home from the testing site. You could have just contracted COVID-19 before you take a test, but it is too early to be detected in a test.
Testing is a crucial part of isolating cases and slowing the spread, but testing does not prevent COVID-19. Social distancing, avoiding large group gatherings —especially indoors — washing hands, and wearing a mask can — though won’t always — prevent you from getting the disease in the first place.
What kind of test should I take?
The PCR test remains the gold standard of testing. Those specimens must be sent to a lab, and typically take around 48 to 72 hours for results. And that is a fluid timeline, and can depend on the volume and backlog at the labs, as well as things like the traffic on the interstate.
Several private medical offices in town offer the antigen test, which returns results in about 15 minutes. If you have a positive result, it is very likely you have COVID-19. But still is best to confirm it with a PCR test. If you test negative, there is still a somewhat decent chance you could be positive, and received a false negative, which is a pretty dangerous “maybe.” If you think you were exposed or are exhibiting symptoms, the PCR test is the most accurate test available at this time.
Some places offer a saliva PCR test in addition to the nasal swab, which is a bit less invasive and uncomfortable. Call your provider or any of the providers in town to find out what kind of tests they offer. Some providers are also offering the antibody test, which detects whether your body has created antibodies in response to the COVID-19 virus. However this does not mean that you didn’t have it six months ago, and it doesn’t mean that you are immune. The data is still out in terms of if and for how long people who contracted the disease are immune — and there are a number of variabilities, such as how many antibodies were created depending on the viral load contracted. There are cases across the globe, including in the Untied States, of people being re-infected. Again, call your provider or any of the providers in town to find out if they are doing antibody testing, and verify whether it is covered by your insurance plan.
Where can I get tested?
Routt County Public Health Department
During the week of Oct. 26, there are two special mobile public health clinics. On Oct. 28, the clinic will be at the Hayden Rodeo Grounds from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. On Oct. 29, the clinic will be at the South Medical Center from 12 to 2 p.m.
Because of the election, the Routt County Historic Courthouse will not have testing the week of Oct. 26. Testing will resume on Nov. 4.
At that time, testing will be available at the courthouse at the following times:
- Mondays 3 to 5 p.m.
- Tuesdays 12 to 2 p.m.
- Wednesdays 9 to 11 a.m.
- Thursdays 12 to 2 p.m.
Friday or Saturday clinics will become available as needed, and Wednesdays will be added in other parts of the county.
There are two options to make an appointment:
- Online calendar
- Call 970-870-5577
When you arrive, call 970-870-5342 to let the nurses know you have arrived. Remain in your car in the designated parking spot and a nurse will come to you.
Online appointments are not available for the special clinics in Hayden and Oak Creek on Oct. 28 and Oct. 29.
South Routt Medical Center
Testing is available in Oak Creek at 11 a.m. Monday to Friday. All you need to do is call ahead for an appointment (970-736-8118). No insurance or payment is required. Call when you arrive, and wait for a nurse to come to your car.
Other places to get tested:
- UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center (970-875-2686)
- Northwest Colorado Health (970-879-1632)
- Pediatrics of Steamboat Springs (970-871-1900)
- Sleeping Bear Pediatrics (970-879-2327)
- Steamboat Emergency Center (970-846-6230)
- Steamboat Springs Family Medicine (970-871-1323)
- Yampa Valley Medical Associates (970-879-3327)
The Routt County Public Health Department provides this list. If your provider is not on this list, call them and ask what kind of tests they offer. It is also a good idea to ask about what kind of turnaround time to expect.
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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