Routt County Public Health reduces COVID-19 response

Officials are no longer doing contact tracing for each local case

Routt County Public Health has paired down its COVID-19 response by reducing contact tracing efforts and publishing less data on new cases locally.

The shift is the most obvious when looking at the department’s COVID-19 dashboard, which no longer reports data on individual cases, such as the age, gender or where the individual was exposed to the virus.

“We’ve made changes to our dashboard because we’re not doing individual case tracing anymore,” said Routt County Public Health Director Roberta Smith. “A lot of that information that we collected on the dashboard, we no longer have that detail.”

Cases of COVID-19 in Routt County are still being reported, but the county’s public health department's dashboard now notes cases after March 1 are an undercount, as the department is no longer investigating all reported cases.
Routt County Public Health Dashboard

Cases have plummeted since the omicron surge in January, and Routt County has seen just 32 cases over the last 14 days, though the lack of case investigations means that is an undercount.

The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention now consider Routt County — and every other county in Colorado — to be at low risk for the virus.

The move to reduce the COVID-19 response, which started on March 1, follows similar actions being taken at the state level with the Colorado Department of Public Heath and Environment announcing plans to close several large state-run testing sites by the end of the month.

UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center is adjusting its COVID-19 testing protocols as well.

On April 2, testing will move from a parking lot on the hospital’s campus to UCHealth Urgent Care in Steamboat Springs, 1600 Mid Valley Drive. Patients being tested will not be billed for an urgent care visit.

“The message is for testing and vaccinations, seek the care of your provider,” Smith said. “That’s the governor’s roadmap. This is what’s being mapped out in terms of transitioning this to health care, rather than getting tested in a parking lot.”

Smith said free testing from Mako Medical will continue in its current location at the Strings Music Pavilion’s parking lot, though she wasn’t sure how long it would continue, as that testing site is contracted through CDPHE.

While efforts to track each individual case have been reduced, that doesn’t mean the public health department has stopped monitoring the virus.

“Public health remains engaged in our pandemic response,” said Nicole Harty, county epidemiologist. “We’re focused primarily on surveillance efforts of case and outbreak investigation in high priority settings.”

Harty said she is still monitoring many of the metrics that are no longer being published on the dashboard to understand how the health department may need to adjust going forward.

The pandemic is also being tracked through Steamboat Springs’ wastewater system, which started monitoring for COVID-19 in January, Smith said. While hospitalizations are a lagging indicator of the pandemic, Smith said data from wastewater treatment is a leading one, meaning it could give insight into what might happen in the near future.

“We know that resort communities tend to see an influx in cases earlier than other parts of the state,” Harty said. “That’s perhaps a better indicator of what’s really happening with people who are in the community.”

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