By Lisa Young
Delta County Commissioners celebrated “no new reported coronavirus cases’” in the county for nine consecutive days as they await state approval on their safer-at-home waiver filed on May 11.
“You look at our numbers in our hospital, and it’s obvious that we’ve flatten the curve here in Delta County,” said Commissioner Don Suppes during the May 20 commissioner meeting.
His comments followed a detailed report on the COVID-19 response from Kris Stewart, Emergency Operations Center. Stewart told commissioners that the health department is reporting a total of 55 county coronavirus cases with 51 individuals recovered.
To date, 36 persons have tested positive, 19 individuals have been in close contact with someone who tested positive, or have had COVID-19 symptoms. So far, 754 tests have been administered in Delta County with 33 tests still pending. One coronavirus death has been reported, testing has increased by 223 tests in the last ten days according to Stewart.
“Starting next Wednesday, in addition to the health department doing COVID testing, the North Fork EMS in Hotchkiss will be a community test site by appointment only,” Stewart said adding that more details will be coming out soon.
The head of the EOC also reported that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) recently expanded testing to symptomatic persons as well as critical government workers who may be potentially exposed to anyone with coronavirus. Stewart said testing and additional information can be found at the hospital or the health department.
“As we open up testing more, we may see more cases,” Stewart advised commissioners.
“By no means are we saying that 55 (cases) is all we’re going to have. We know more are out there, but the bigger thing is flattening the curve and not having the hospital overrun. So far we’ve succeeded in that,” said Commissioner Mark Roeber.
Robbie LeValley, county administrator, notified the board that misinformation regarding how the county releases COVID-19 messaging is being disseminated on social media.
“This particular misinformation is indicating that the Board of County Commissioners are basically telling our public health department what message to put out,” said LeValley giving a detailed account of how the information is disseminated.
LeValley said Karen O’Brien, public health director, sends a daily COVID-19 numbers report to the two other members of the incident command team including herself representing the county and Jody Roeber, Delta County Memorial Hospital. The information then goes to Darnell Place-Wise, county public information officer, who drafts the daily news/press release. The draft is then sent back to the health department and hospital for corrections and final approval.
“The approval of the media release comes specifically from Karen O’Brien as the public health director and Jody Roeber at the hospital, once they approve it, it is sent out,” said LeValley emphasizing that county commissioners are not involved in the process.
Also, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) put out clarification on COVID-19 death data reporting last week. CDPHE stated that up until May 15, its data dashboard included deaths among all people who had COVID-19 at the time of death.
CDPHE numbers, prior to the change, included deaths caused by COVID-19 and deaths among people who had COVID-19 at the time of death; however, the cause or causes may not have been attributed to COVID-19 on the death certificate.
According to the CDPHE, this is the standard way states report to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Going forward, Colorado will present both deaths among COVID-19 cases and deaths due to COVID-19.