By Lisa Young

Staff writer

Delta County Unified Command Team on YouTube

Delta County Unified Command Team (l-r) Karen O'Brien, health department; Jodi Roeber, hospital, and Robbie LeValley, county administrator. 

Delta County Unified Command, overseeing the county’s COVID-19 response, released a 23-minute-long video last week discussing the recent surge in coronavirus cases. The video posted on its YouTube channel comes after the county quickly jumped from a 1.83% positivity rate in late October to 4.27% in early November.

“The current cases in Delta County are very concerning at this point and time,” said Karen O’Brien, health department director, reminding the public that the numbers are going up statewide. She said that while it isn’t surprising that the county has cases it is surprising how quickly the cases have gone up in the last few weeks.

From previous reporting, it took the county 125 days to reach the first 100 cases, 89 days to hit the next 100 cases (200 total) and roughly 19 days to reach 300 plus cases. If the trend holds, the county could reach 400 cases within the next week or so. On Monday the county reported 354 cases.

As of Nov. 15 the two week positivity for testing has skyrocketed to 9.03% with the two week positive case count up 8.8% at 136 and the two week case rate at 438.47 per 100,000 population.

While indicators in this area of the dashboard fall within the state’s stay at home or high risk on the dial, the county remains listed in the Safer-at-Home Level 1 or “cautious.”

Among the current concerns for the health department is the difficulty in tracking down the origin of new cases. In the past, the department has traced cases to individuals or families, but that has now expanded.

“No longer are we able to trace that particular case back to an individual ...it’s really hard to find out where the origin of that case has started so at this point and time we are seeing community transmission,” she said, adding that the virus is in every municipality in the county.

Delta County reported its first outbreak at a long-term care facility and a residential facility bringing the total outbreaks to eight with four active and four resolved. The county broke with protocol and posted the seventh and eighth outbreaks on social media.

Horizons Care Center and Gateway Residential Services, a youth correctional center, were both listed as outbreak sites on Nov. 11. County officials did not release the numbers; however, the state site reported four residents and six staff members at Gateway tested positive for the virus.

At Horizons Care Center, a healthcare facility, two residents tested positive with an additional 10 patients listed as probable without lab testing. One staff member tested positive with five listed as probable without lab testing. An outbreak is defined as two positive cases at the same location, within a 14-day period.

Visitation at Delta County Memorial Hospital has been curtailed due to an increase in regional hospital admissions and the surge in COVID numbers according to Jodi Roeber, chief clinical officer.

The rural hospital with 49 beds has “gone back to early COVID days” in regards to allowing visitors. Volunteers in patient areas have been asked to remain at home with a limited number still able to help in non-patient areas.

According to the hospital’s website, all persons entering the facility will be screened for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. The hospital is allowing for a limited number of visitors with appropriate screening. A full list of visitor restrictions is listed on the hospital’s website.

“Delta hospital has had at least one to as many as three covid cases at a time at the hospital for the past three to four months. All of them have done well and many of them for a short period of time,” Roeber said.

Masks are required for everyone at the hospital and personal protection equipment (PPE) regulations for all staff members will be tightly enforced as well as increasing infection control protocols.

Roeber said the hospital is looking into new technology with negative pressure rooms in hopes of expanding COVID isolation room capacity.

“The best thing people can do to support the hospital is certainly stay home when you are ill, of course if you’re ill seek medical care. We were concerned early on in covid that people were not seeking medical care,” she said, encouraging the usage of tele-medicine especially for high risk individuals.

Roeber pointed out that higher rates of transmission may be taking place at small work break rooms where masks are removed for eating meals and visiting with co-workers.

Despite COVID fatigue, Robbie LeValley, county administrator, spoke about the importance of keeping area businesses and schools open.

“We need to keep our businesses open. We know when they were shut down early on there was a significant economic impact,” she said, adding that the impact carried over to the closing down of schools.

LeValley said the unified command has continued to meet since March providing a concentrated effort with consistent messaging and support. She requested that the community get its information from the health department’s website.

“There’s lots of noise out there and everyone’s an expert with very little experience, we want you to use the Delta County Health Department website for the accurate information, the science based information and not information that is based on rhetoric or opinion.”

With the surge in COVID cases, the health department posted the following request on its dashboard dial: “It is now more important than ever to continue to take the steps to lessen your risk of becoming infected: Wear a mask, Wash your hands, and Watch your distance (3 W’s). Keeping our schools and businesses open and outbreak free is only possible with your cooperation: Get tested (to identify cases early and prevent random transmission) stay home if you are feeling ill (even minor symptoms), and avoid gathering in larger groups (meet virtually when possible.)”

Click here to view the entire Delta County Unified Command message or visit Delta County, Colorado YouTube channel.

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