By Randi Pierce
Archuleta County moved into Level Orange: High Risk on the state’s COVID dial Monday.
Archuleta County was one of several counties who moved from Level Red: Severe Risk to Level Orange following guidance from Gov. Jared Polis, though Archuleta County was already working toward the move.
Prior to Polis’ announcement, the move would have required that an approved mitigation plan be submitted to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).
“Our goal is to empower counties to operate with the least restrictions possible, while at the same time ensuring protection of the public’s health and Colorado’s hospital capacity. We are closely monitoring disease transmission while working to provide much-needed economic relief by allowing businesses to operate with fewer restrictions,” Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of the CDPHE, said Monday.
A county’s dial level is determined by three metrics, as well as other public health considerations:
• Number of new cases. The case count provides information on how prevalent the virus is circulating in communities.
• Percent positivity of COVID tests. The percent positivity is a clear indication if enough testing is being done.
• Impact on hospitalizations. Hospitalization data provides information about health care capacity.
Level Orange allows, among other things, indoor dining at restaurants at a limited (25 percent) capacity, personal gatherings of up to 10 people from no more than two households, a 10 p.m. on-premise last call and increased office capacity (25 percent).
“SJBPH is reminding everyone that although the governor moved all red counties to orange, it is crucial that we all continue to practice the following public health precautions to control the spread of the virus, especially since the variant (more contagious) strain of the virus has been identified in Colorado and we don’t believe we’ve seen the impact of holiday gatherings reflected in our case counts yet,” an email from San Juan Basin Public Health (SJPBH) Director of Communications Claire Ninde states.
For more information, visit covid19.colorado.gov.
As of Wednesday, San Juan Basin Public Health SJPBH reported 509 cumulative cases of lab-confirmed COVID-19 among permanent residents since last March. That figure is up from 491 on Jan. 1.
The organization also reported 111 nonresident cases since June, and two active outbreaks in Archuleta County.
Despite the move to Level Orange, the state’s COVID dial website shows that Archuleta County’s two-week cumulative incidence rate has returned to a higher level.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the website showed 449.9 cases per 100,000 residents for Archuleta County, with 350 or above falling within the red category.
The state suggests that people with symptoms should always get tested immediately. Symptoms include:
• Fever or chills.
• Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
• Muscle or body aches.
• New loss of taste or smell.
• Sore throat.
• Congestion or runny nose.
• Nausea or vomiting.
Local testing options
Testing continues to be available at a number of local health care facilities, including:
• Archuleta Integrated Healthcare: 264-2104.
• Pagosa Medical Group (including rapid testing if deemed appropriate by a provider): 372-0456.
• Pagosa Springs Medical Center: 731-3700. The facility offers testing for symptomatic patients through its clinic and offers testing to asymptomatic individuals who may have been exposed through drive-through testing to the right rear of the medical center. The drive-thru testing is open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every day but Sunday.
Steps to slow the spread
Public health officials urge the continued practice of precautions:
• Staying at home as much as possible, especially when feeling unwell for any reason.
• Avoiding social gatherings with more than one household, especially indoors.
• Encouraging employees to work from home whenever possible.
• Practicing physical distancing (staying at least 6 feet away from another person).
• Wearing face coverings when in public, as required.
• Practicing good hygiene (washing hands, covering coughs and sneezes, etc.).
• Getting tested if you have symptoms or believe you’ve been exposed through a known contact or community interaction.