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Routt County drafts travel recommendations amid rise in COVID-19 cases

During a meeting Tuesday, the Board of Routt County Commissioners drafted a series of travel recommendations in an attempt to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus. Among the recommendations include avoiding places with a high prevalence of the virus and limiting interactions with people while traveling.
File photo/John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS —  Amid a recent rise in COVID-19 cases, the Routt County Board of Commissioners approved a list of travel recommendations for residents, visitors and businesses during a meeting Wednesday.

The recommendations are one of the latest initiatives to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.

They came a day ahead of Gov. Jared Polis’ announcement of a statewide mask mandate, which requires everyone age 10 and older to wear a face covering while at public indoor places. Cases of the virus have grown statewide in the past four weeks, including a 40% increase last week, according to Colorado health officials.

“Hospitalizations are up. Case counts are up,” Polis said during a news conference Thursday where he announced the mask mandate. “This is the least costly and the simplest intervention that we can do.”

He emphasized that Colorado is experiencing a relatively low rise in cases compared to other states, such parts of Texas and Arizona that have been labeled “hotspots” for the virus.

Travel has been one of the main contributors to new cases in Routt County, according to Dr. Brian Harrington, the county’s public health medical officer. Of the 22 new cases identified in the last month, 10 involved people traveling outside of the county who “very likely” contracting the disease on their trip.

As the commissioners emphasized, their list of recommendations are just that — recommendations.

“We are not telling people what to do,” Melton said. “We are informing them of the best way to travel safely.”

Routt County travel recommendations
  1. Practice the Five Commitments at home and while traveling – even when they are not required by local regulations
  2. Avoid COVID-19 hotspots whenever possible
  3. Assess the risk of activities you participate in while traveling
  4. Limit interactions for two weeks after travel to/from hotspots
  5. Limit interactions before you travel

The first of the recommendations is to follow what the commissioners refer to as the “five commitments” to reducing spread of disease. Those include: maintaining social distance of 6 feet or more; washing hands often; covering one’s face in public; staying at home if sick; and seeking a test immediately if one develops symptoms.

The second warns against visiting hotspots that have reported new positive tests at a rate of 10% or greater. People can see a map of the country’s virus prevalence to check which areas have the most cases using data from the Harvard Global Health Institute at globalepidemics.org/key-metrics-for-covid- suppression/

Routt County also has its own local COVID-19 monitor, which tracks new cases. As of Thursday, the number of cases in the county was well below the “critical threshold” that deems an area a hotspot. The rate of positive tests is 2.69% for the past week, also well below the critical threshold of 10%.  

The recommendations also advise people to limit contact with others a few days before and after traveling, particularly if visiting hotspots. People also should try to avoid close contact with others as much as possible during their trips.  

If people believe they might have been exposed to or have the virus, they should self-quarantine for at least 14 days and get tested. For obvious reasons, people showing symptoms should not be traveling in the first place.

Polis said a primary goal of state and local health guidelines, from the mask mandate to travel tips, are to prevent more disruptive restrictions, such as a reinstatement of the stay-at-home order. He reiterated daily health principles, such as washing hands frequently, staying at least 6 feet apart from others and limiting social interactions as much as possible.

As Polis advised at the news conference: “Be smart. Be clean. Be careful.”

To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email dmaiolo@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.


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