Board of Public Health says it will not volunteer to drop down to Safer at Home following increase in COVID cases
With nearly 20 active cases within Moffat County and an offer on the table from Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to voluntarily drop back down into the Safer at Home phase to help mitigate the spread of the virus throughout the state, the Moffat County Board of Health – made up of County Commissioners Ray Beck, Don Cook and Donald Broom – decided to stay the course during an emergency public health meeting Monday morning inside Commissioners’ chambers.
During Monday’s meeting, Moffat County Director of Public Health Kari Ladrow provided an update on the number of cases in Moffat County, stating that rapid testing revealed eight additional cases Monday, pushing Moffat County’s total to 70.
With the increase in cases, an increase in patient hospitalizations has occurred, according to Memorial Regional Health Vice President of Operations Jennifer Riley.
“Three people have been hospitalized in the COVID unit at MRH in last two weeks,” Riley said. “The length of stay has varied from two to five days. Severity has been low, so we’ve been able to treat the patients here, but there is a concern that if we start to see sicker patients, where can we transfer them to? It’s been difficult to transfer patients to the Front Range due to smoke from the fire, and it’s been difficult to transfer patients to Grand Junction due to a lack of beds at the moment.”
According to Steve Hilley, RN and Emergency Preparedness/Infection Preventionist at MRH, Colorado currently has 516 COVID cases hospitalized, resulting in a significant increase from a few months ago.
Ladrow said that the significant rise in cases isn’t a concern overall to her and Public Health. However, the ability to treat patients at the local hospital is the biggest concern of all.
“I’m not as concerned about the case count itself; I’m concerned about being a frontier community and if people get sick and we can’t transfer them or provide care for them here within our own hospital system, what does that all look like?” Ladrow said. “I’m concerned about having the capacity, because the reality is for rural and frontier communities it looks different.
“We’ve been fortunate that a lot of those that have received a COVID diagnosis have gotten better and carried on with their lives, but if we do run into a situation where people are ill and we can’t care for them, that’s going to be very problematic.”
Protective Personal Equipment also remains a concern, especially locally, Hilley said. At this moment, MRH is “doing fine” when it comes to PPE, Hilley said. That could all change quickly though.
“It just all depends on what happens locally,” Hilley said. “Right now, in this moment of time, this snapshot, things look good here in terms of PPE…we’re good now, and we continue to get allocations for PPE, but it could easily change.”
Another concern for Public Health is the current influx of hunters into the area at a time in which the county continues to see a significant increase in positive cases.
Ladrow said that Public Health is currently working with Moffat County Tourism Association Director Tom Kleinschnitz to provide flyers and information to hunters coming into town, as well as the influx of people coming into community.
“We’ve been working on a messaging campaign for that,” Ladrow said.
With cases rising and a huge economic driver for Moffat County in hunting season in full swing, the Board of Health weighed its options with remaining in Protect Our Neighbors phase, or voluntarily dropping down into Safer at Home Level 1 or Level 2, which would decrease gathering sizes to 175 people and decrease capacity at restaurants, gyms, and more to 25%.
That said, CDPHE could force Moffat County to take a step back regardless. CDPHE recently forced Mesa County to move back down into Safer at Home after more than 300 new cases over the weekend.
Prior to making a decision, the Board of Health asked City of Craig Mayor Jarrod Ogden, who was in attendance Monday, for his input regarding remaining in Protect Our Neighbor or voluntarily dropping back down into Safer at Home.
“I would say this community, regardless of the negative things that are our there, has worked fairly diligently from one spectrum to the next to be mindful of things to do the right thing,” Ogden said. “I just don’t want to see us take a step back; our economy can’t take it for one thing…that’s my biggest concern about that.
“I get that we’re on an uptick, but hearing from everyone, we’re still within our guidelines. I don’t think that volunteering to take a step back to our governor is the right move, but that’s my opinion. I think once you do that, it’s hard to get back to where we are again.
“We just need to keep encouraging people to do the right thing and keep moving forward.”
Commissioner Ray Beck echoed Mayor Ogden’s thoughts.
“I thought long and hard about this over the weekend and about doing what’s the right thing to do for this community,” Beck said. “Volunteering to take a step back may look good down the road, but if we continue our messaging of social distancing and wearing a mask per the executive order of the state and the governor…doing those things we’ve been doing over the summer should help.”
Commissioners Donald Broom and Don Cook were in agreeance with Beck, stating they were not going to voluntarily take a step back to Safer at Home, rather riding out the current uptick and continuing to push the message of wearing a mask and social distancing.
“I don’t think we’re going to have a choice here at some point,” Cook said. “I think they’re going to just force us back down into Safer at Home. I think we should just continue to stay the course and weather the storm for the time being.”
OTHER PUBLIC HEALTH BUSINESS
Aside from deciding to stay in the Protect Our Neighbor phase Monday, Public Health provided additional updates to the community during the meeting.
According to Ladrow, Trick-or-Treat can still happen in the community. The only thing that was canceled was the downtown Trick-or-Treat street event.
“It’s disappointing for the whole community, disappointing for us in Public Health and for children, and disappointed in where we are as a community,” Ladrow said. “But we just weren’t in position to do it safely with our virus counts.”
Ladrow added that those planning on trick-or-treating in communities are asked to be careful when they’re out and about. Ladrow reminded the community to be diligent about washing your hands and wearing masks when giving out candy.
“Trick-or-treat itself was not canceled,” Ladrow said. “A lot of people took that event being canceled as the entire holiday being canceled; none of that happened. It was just the downtown event and the Victory Motors event as well.”
A few weeks after announcing a COVID-19 outbreak at Sunset Meadows, Ladrow said that the senior living facility is now out of outbreak status.
“We wanted to make sure that the virus didn’t spread throughout buildings, so there was aggressive testing and isolation there,” Ladrow said. “As of last week, they are out of outbreak status at Sunset. Door monitors are currently at the facility and are reminding people as they come in to wash their hands, wear a mask and protect the residents while in the building.”
Public Health requested to have monitors at the doors through the end of November. Monitors are currently paid for through COVID funding, Ladrow said. It’s unknown at this time how much monitors are being paid.
Aside from Sunset Meadows, Ladrow said that Sandrock Ridge Care and Rehab is working hard to get out of outbreak status just a few short days after an outbreak occurred.
“The staff there has done a phenomenal job of being careful and taking care of residents,” Ladrow said. “[Public Health Nurses] Olivia [Scheele] and Becky [Copeland] are working with them on PPE there. I just can’t say enough good things about how they’re handling things over there. Hopefully they come out of it soon.”
Ladrow added that Sandrock staff is currently testing residents internally.
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Moffat County is requesting a move to the less-restrictive Level Green: Protect Our Neighbors in the COVID-19 dial from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.