By Lucas Vader
At the start of the Sept. 17 Cedaredge town meeting, the board of trustees listened to a presentation from Greg Rajnowski, a new addition to the Delta County Health Department, who will be taking over as director of the department when current director Ken Nordstrom retires at the end of the year.
Rajnowski came to the board with updates regarding COVID-19 and a further plan of action regarding the pandemic.
First off, Rajnowski assured the board he would be honest with the information collected by the health department and refrain from scare tactics, stating that, from the perspective of the health department, Cedaredge is fairing well as far as the virus is concerned.
While he couldn’t give specific information on virus cases due to HIPAA Privacy regulations, Rajnowski said Cedaredge’s case count per the population is consistent with every other town in the county.
A COVID-19 “dashboard” is available by link at the top of deltacounty.com. This dashboard tracks progress in the pandemic and has a dial that shows visualization of the severity of the virus within the county. At this time, the dial indicates that the situation is mild, with the on-screen dial hand in the “green.” While cases in the county are still rising, they are not comparatively rising more than they should logically be rising at this point. The rate at which they are rising has slowed down.
Rajnowski told the board he was not under the delusion that regulations are being followed all the time, nor does he think that threats for noncompliance would be effective.
“We’re not going to enforce our way out of the virus, and we’re not going to enforce people who don’t want to be enforced,” Rajnowski said. “What I propose to the town is that we come up with ways to offer incentives to those businesses that are really complying.”
An example of an incentive that Rajnowski brought up was ice wands for restaurants, and other such incentives of value for those who follow the regulations. The incentives could vary, but it was a suggestion Rajnowski had to bring to the table.
“It’s going to take everyone to help out,” Rajnowski said. He explained that, at the state level, the status of each individual county was being monitored by the state, and a regression of that on-screen dial which is currently in the green could mean mandates from the governor’s office bringing back regulations Colorado has seen over the last six months.
Rajnowski reiterated that the businesses are the ones which were asked to ensure regulations are followed on their premises. In cases in which customers refuse to comply with regulations despite employees’ insistence, those customers can be charged with trespass if the business employee or owner chooses to call law enforcement.
Upon being questioned by the board, Rajnowski went into detail on the health department’s lack of location-based reporting of cases. First off, it becomes a HIPAA privacy issue if members of the community are able to guess victims of the virus off of provided details. Secondly, reporting victims’ towns of residency tends to do no good, as people aren’t picking the virus up at home.
The virus spreads in crowds, frequently picked up elsewhere by Delta County residents and brought back to their home town. He transitioned to use the example to credit locations that follow regulations and thereby slow the spread of the virus.
For example, Rajnowski told the board that Walmart has over 3,000 visits a day. “So where are you most likely to get COVID?” Rajnowski asked. “Walmart. Where are people getting COVID? Not at Walmart.”
As of Sunday evening, the health department’s COVID dashboard displays an array of all the data the department can give. This includes total cases, active cases, deaths, basic demographics, hospitalizations and some information on the virus. It can be found at deltacounty.com.