Public Health Director gives update on COVID-19 in the county
During a virtual presentation, Tuesday night by Tom Gonzales Public Health Director of Larimer County information on COVID-19 in the county was given along with an overview and current trends.
Gonzales said that although the county has not exceeded the 5% positivity rate, currently at 3.3%, unlike counties to the south, cases have started going up again and, “have been far higher than we want to see in the community.”
Larimer county cases are rising among those 18-24 years old and 45-54 years old. Officials report that many of the individuals who have tested positive have not been in large groups but did attend gatherings indoors.
After expressing his gratitude for the community’s efforts in reducing the spread of the virus Gonzales encouraged residents to stay the course with social distancing, wearing face coverings, washing hands and avoiding large gatherings. “We are all getting tired, but we have to keep up the great work,” he said.
Health officials at the county level have become more concerned in recent days as the 14-day case rate per 100,000 people jumped from around 70 back in September to over 160 Monday.
Larimer County continues to be at a “Safer Level 1,” as designated by the state’s 5 level dial system but could lose that designation if cases continue to rise.
Testing turnaround times have decreased substantially in recent weeks with 90% of results returning within three days. At the beginning of the outbreak, results could take as much as 12 days to return.
Gonzales also elaborated on the county’s role in school reopening explaining that they are not responsible for deciding to reopen but that they do support schools doing so. “We have had limited cases and our schools have been great partners in closures and assessments with constantly changing guidance,” he said.
The importance of contact tracing was also discussed, and community members were encouraged to participate if they are contacted by trained county contact tracers. “Recently we’ve had a harder time getting people to answer our calls and provide accurate information,” Gonzalez said while stating that the information individuals provide will remain private, but that information will help prevent community spread.
Gonzales was joined during the presentation by Kevin Unger president and chief executive officer of Poudre Valley Hospital and Medical Center of the Rockies representing the UCHealth system and Margo Karsten president of the western region for Banner Health System.
The representatives were asked how their hospitals had prepared for increased hospitalizations should that be required. Unger responded by saying, “We were actually able to triple our ICU capacity if we had to in a pinch with the vents that we have within the UCHealth system, as well as PPE and bed capacity we feel pretty comfortable around being able to shift up.” Both Karsten and Unger said that the concern would be in having enough critical care staff but that many nurses have been up training to be able to care for critically ill patients. Karsten said that should surrounding states not peak alongside Colorado Banner Health nurses from Arizona would be brought to Colorado to assist.
In closing Gonzales encouraged community members to quickly quarantine if they begin to feel sick, to be tested and to cooperate with contact tracing as it, “provides a more controlled environment” for the county.