In Moffat County, hunting presents minimal cause for COVID concern
Health officials say they believe hunting season did not have as much of a hand in COVID case spike
For much of the spring and summer, Moffat County’s COVID-19 cases were in control. Once fall hit though — especially early October — cases started to rise significantly.
Many community members have posted on social media about how unhappy they are with the latest health order moving Moffat County into Safer at Home Level Orange. Some started blaming the increase in cases on an influx of out-of-state hunters — lamenting the lack of masks, social distancing, and overall care for the community during their visits.
That isn’t quite the case though, according to local health officials.
“Is it [hunting season] a contributing factor? Probably. Is it why we’re seeing the spread we’re seeing now? Absolutely not,” said Jennifer Riley, Memorial Regional Health’s Vice President of Operations. “People aren’t wearing masks, are continuing to gather publicly, and aren’t listening to advice that Public Health is offering to them.”
A variety of hunting seasons ran from Sept. 2 through Nov. 22.
In September, Moffat County saw very few cases of COVID-19. The current spike began on Wednesday, Oct. 21, when cases jumped from 45 to 61 countywide.
While numbers rose dramatically in the middle of the second and third hunting seasons in Moffat County, Public Health Nurse Olivia Scheele says Public Health hasn’t seen anything related to hunting when it comes to the most recent spike in cases.
“We haven’t had anything related to hunters. It’s been households getting sick, sick households hanging out with other households, causing them to get sick,” Scheele said.
“This is hitting people throughout the community,” Riley added. “We’re at community spread levels now because people don’t know where they got it. I don’t think you can blame hunters specifically.”
Tony Bohrer, who owns and operates Ivory Tip Outfitters, said that throughout the multiple hunting seasons, just one hunter tested positive for the virus, which came on the day the hunter left the county.
“I think, to blame the hunters specifically for our spike, is a little weird,” Bohrer said. “Denver had a spike, but there’s no hunters there. Steamboat, Vail, Eagle, they all had spikes and they don’t have many hunters there, and they were very strict on masks, so to blame hunters for the situation we’re in now is a little weird to me.”
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