Routt County hits highest peak in number of COVID-19 cases with 21 confirmed over 1 week |

Routt County hits highest peak in number of COVID-19 cases with 21 confirmed over 1 week

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Routt County got what county commissioners called a “wake-up call” Wednesday with 21 new positive cases of COVID-19 in the past week, the largest one-week increase since the start of the pandemic, according to the county’s dashboard.

“We expect things to get worse in the weeks and months ahead,” said Dr. Brian Harrington, Routt County Public Health chief medical officer. “It’s unfortunate if we sustain this level, that we are starting into the winter season already at a moderate level of disease in our communities.”

The spike in cases corresponds to a jump seen across the state and in some parts of the country as Americans endure what some health officials are calling a third wave of the pandemic.

The new cases in Routt County are the highest reported in a one-week span since the start of the pandemic, beating the previous record of 12 which has happened twice, in late March and mid-September, according to the county’s dashboard.

Roberta Smith, Routt County Public Health director, said she learned on a call with state officials Wednesday morning that one out of every 290 Coloradans is currently infected with COVID-19.

“Let that sink in,” Smith said. 

Ten additional cases in the week prior brings the two-week new case count to 31, 12 cases above the 19 allowed in a two-week span to stay at Level 1 of the state’s Safer at Home plan.

The new cases above the Level 1 benchmark do not automatically trigger a move to Level 2, which would return the more restrictive measures on how many people can gather. Instead, there is a four-week timeframe where the county can put in additional measures ranging from increased community education to a local public health order. Such an order could lead to more restrictive measures taken to limit how many people can gather, but county health officials and commissioners favored taking measures that would not be restrictive on local retail and restaurants.

“We’re going to have to think of some measures and maybe it is how we can encourage people to take personal responsibility in their actions before we have to move to a more restrictive process,” Smith said.

If the county is forced to move up to Level 2 of the state’s Safer at Home plan, more restrictive measures regarding gathering would be put in place. Prior to the county’s step down to Level 1 earlier this month, restaurants were operating under a variance allowing them to adhere to Level 1 guidelines. A step back up to Level 2 would no longer have that variance, imposing tighter restrictions on restaurants.

Four of the cases in the latest two-week span are from an outbreak among staff at Casey’s Pond, but there have been no additional positives among staff and no new positives among residents.

New cases within the county include positives in the school system that caused about 70 students and seven staff members to quarantine earlier this week. There have been no additional school cases, a sign that mass quarantining of students after close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 is working. 

“We have yet to find any associated cases in their cohort or the schools and this would indicate that we haven’t had any spread within the schools, “ Harrington said. “The schools represent a safer place than many other situations in our county.” 

Of these 31 cases, health officials say six have no known contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, meaning that these people contracted the virus through community spread.

County health officials continued to urge people to wear masks, wash hands, social distance and get tested when you have symptoms. Even if people may consider themselves lower risk, they need to understand that they impact more vulnerable people in the community, whether or not businesses can stay open and even if students continue going to school.

“If we have continued rising cases, we or the state may be forced to put in place more restrictions,” Harrington said. “I think this would be a good year to forgo Halloween parties.”

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