Public Health says Moffat County is not quite ready to move into ‘Protect Our Neighbors’ phase
Increasing cases of COVID-19 means Moffat County isn’t quite ready to move into the next phase of reopening. That’s what Moffat County Public Health Director Kari Ladrow told county commissioners Tuesday during a special Board of Public Health meeting.
The “Protect Our Neighbors” phase is a framework that will empower local governments that can demonstrate strong public health and health care systems, paired with low virus levels, to make decisions about how they should reopen.
For a county to move into the “Protect Our Neighbors” phase, low virus prevalence, healthcare capacity to handle a surge, and strong public health capacity are required, according to guidelines from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Governor Jared Polis.
While virus levels are low in Moffat County in terms of overall numbers, the recent increase in cases is a cause for concern, according to Public Health.
“Cases seem to be on a steady increase, which we can handle right now, but what we don’t want is to see a whole bunch of cases in a short period,” Ladrow said.
Ladrow added that aside from the increase in cases within the county, Memorial Regional Health is unable to meet the requirements for the next phase, in terms of sufficient Personal Protection Equipment at the hospital. Hospitals have to have at least two weeks of PPE, which MRH feels it cannot meet, according to Ladrow.
While Moffat County can’t apply to move into the “Protect Our Neighbors” phase, the county can apply for $50,000 through a planning grant involved with the latest phase.
The state made additional CARES Act funding available to local public health agencies earlier in the month. Those resources are available to communities to:
Engage their communities to assess their containment and infrastructure needs to meet the established Protect Our Neighbor thresholds
Understand the experiences and needs of communities impacted by and at increased risk of COVID-19 to inform their mitigation and containment plans
Develop plans to build the infrastructure they need to be successful in Protect Our Neighbors.
According to Ladrow, that $50,000 – if awarded – must be spent by Dec. 30, 2020.
“It would be silly not to go for this grant,” Commissioner Don Cook said. “There’s no reason why we shouldn’t.”
The grant application must be submitted by Wednesday, July 15.
TRAVEL INTO AND OUT OF COUNTY LEADING TO RISING COVID CASES
Moffat County has doubled its number of positive cases in the last month or so, and according to Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brian Harrington, travel into and out of the county is playing a large role in the latest increase in cases.
“We’re seeing a lot of cases related to people leaving the area of coming into the area, getting sick and getting tested,” Dr. Harrington said. “It’s really not a surprise because we’re seeing everyone doing more and moving around; this is inevitable.”
“It’s going to be very difficult to get people to stay home,” Commissioner Cook added.”
COUNTY OPENS UP CONTACT TRACING POSITIONS
Moffat County Commissioners approved the creation of 6-8 new contact tracing positions to help Public Health trace cases and make appropriate contact with community members if they have been exposed to a positive case.
“The demand for contact tracing is definitely there as the cases rise locally,” Public Health Nurse Olivia Scheele said.
According to Scheele, the position is $20 an hour. Applicants will have to pass a background check and then will sign a confidentiality agreement should they be hired. The position is on an as-needed basis.
“Once we have a positive case, I’ll assign contact tracing out as necessary,” Scheele said.
“It’s very time consuming,” Dr. Harrington said. “For a single case, we might have a dozen or more folks to track down and try to review their record and see where they’ve been. It’s very time consuming and laborious.”
Commissioner Cook added that the county is looking for a bilingual contact tracer to help communicate with the Spanish-speaking community and make communication more comfortable for the Spanish-speaking community.
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