Pandemic’s fall spike continues in Eagle County; statewide ‘we are at a critical moment’
On Friday, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment released a new modeling report which revealed that hospitalizations from the novel coronavirus are increasing rapidly across the state, and amended its safer-at-home public health order to limit personal gatherings to no more than 10 people from no more than two separate households.
The department also issued a warning: To avoid increasing infections and strain on hospitals over the next three months, a substantial increase in transmission control will be needed.
“We are at a critical moment,” Colorado public health reported on Friday.
Transmission control levels in Colorado have decreased among all age groups over the past month, according to the modeling report released Friday. Lower levels of control mean higher levels of spread in communities.
Individuals aged 20-39 have the highest contact rates currently with their transmission control estimated to be 58%, individuals under 20 have a transmission control rate of 74%, folks 40-64 have a 66% transmission control rate, and people older than 65 have a transmission control rate of 73%.
For Colorado to see a decrease in cases, transmission control levels have to be about 78.5%.
“If Colorado remains on the current trajectory, we will likely exceed the April peak in hospitalizations for COVID-19 by mid-November, which exceeded 900 in one day,” the Colorado Department of Public Health reported on Friday. “Increases in contacts over the holidays will accelerate growth in cases and intensive care unit hospital capacity may be exceeded in December or January.”
New cases at Eagle County schools
The fall spike came into view in Eagle County on Oct. 5, when the county reported 14 new cases, the highest single-day total since July.
Since then, the county has seen several more 14- and 15-count days — 13 new cases were recorded on Oct. 21, and 15 new cases were recorded on Oct. 22.
While the recent trends in transmission control rates do not paint a pretty picture as to where Eagle County and the state of Colorado may be headed in the weeks to come, it does suggest that schools are doing relatively well in controlling spread, with kids under 20 scoring highest on the transmission control chart, spreading at a rate that’s slightly less than those over 65.
Eagle County Schools has seen the effects of the fall pandemic spike; on Wednesday the school district reported positive COVID-19 cases among a student at Eagle Valley High School and a staff member at Battle Mountain High School. On Friday, Eagle Valley Elementary School was informed by Eagle County Public Health that three students who had been absent since Oct. 19 had tested positive for the virus.
Eagle County Schools Superintendent Philip Qualman, in letters to parents, said all cases were traced to household transmission.
“So far, no transmission of the virus has happened at school,” Qualman said. “Positive cases have been identified, precautionary quarantines have been implemented by Public Health, and no student-to-student, student-to-staff, or staff-to-student transmission has happened as a result.”
Qualman said parent support and collaboration has helped the district prevent transmission from occurring at schools.
“Because the mitigation strategies are working so well, Public Health has moved to its process of focused quarantining,” Qualman said. “Rather than blanket quarantines based on a specific cohort size, Public Health is looking at seating charts, lunch partners, extracurricular activities and honing their focus on those students who had the closest contact with a positive case. This keeps more students and staff members on their regular schedule while still protecting the school population.”
10 people, 2 household limit
Eagle County Schools also reinforced another message sent out by the state on Friday — the big social gatherings need to stop.
“Of course, we are all fatigued with restrictions and changing orders, but as your school district, we are also proud and appreciative of the ongoing sacrifices being made to keep the community’s children in school,” the district told parents. “Our primary goal is to safely keep as many students in school for as long as possible. Please help us rally again to turn back the spread of this virus.”
The state public health department — in addition reducing the size of personal gatherings to no more than 10 people from no more than two separate households — said on Friday that recent case investigation data show that since July, attending social gatherings and community exposures have become more common among new cases.
Colorado Public Health Executive Directory Jill Hunsaker Ryan said the state is asking everyone to “shrink their bubble.”
“Please take every effort to reduce contact with members of other households,” Ryan said. “If you can work remotely, please do so to reduce contact with other individuals.”
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