By Lisa Young
Delta County Commissioners heard a detailed update on the county’s ongoing coronavirus response, viewed a draft data dashboard and received the current case numbers during its Sept. 2 board meeting.
During a presentation introducing a new coronavirus data dashboard, Greg Rajnowski from the health department ran down the most current coronavirus numbers to date.
“As of yesterday, we had 29 cases in our two week count. You can see in the last two weeks we’ve been very busy. We’ve had some outbreaks due to cases that were related to each other. Outside of those cases, we haven’t seen evidence of spread outside of that ‘family’ outbreak,” he told commissioners.
As of the briefing, the county has tested 5,181 persons with 166 positive cases, 136 confirmed, 30 pending and 133 recovered. The county currently has zero hospitalizations with two deaths reported.
Noting that the public has increased access to coronavirus data, the health department claims the new dashboard will better inform the general public and increase transparency.
The dashboard, currently in draft mode, will eventually be on county social media and its website that contain some, but not all of the county’s coronavirus information.
Notably missing from both the commissioner briefings and its social media sites is the reporting of coronavirus outbreaks within the county.
The first known outbreak to impact Delta County was the West Elk Mine in April. Commissioners were briefed about the outbreak in Gunnison County during an open meeting; however, the pertinent information did not appear on the county’s social media pages.
Two subsequent in-county outbreaks were also missing from the county social media pages but released to the Delta County Independent via press releases.
Darnell Place-Wise, county public information officer, said the decision to not post the Sheriff’s office outbreak in July and the El Tapatio Restaurant outbreak in August on their Facebook pages was made prior to the events by the Unified Command team.
“We didn’t post the outbreak at the West Elk Mine, so to be consistent we chose to not post any outbreaks on our social media sites,” she said.
Despite the number of positive cases going up and evidence of community spread increasing, the number of local hospitalizations has remained low. Rajnowski reported no current coronavirus hospitalizations at Delta County Memorial Hospital.
“What we’re working on with the hospital is some real time data that will automatically dump into the backend of this dashboard. Those numbers will then be able to be current,” he reported.
Low to non-existent hospitalizations, prompted Delta County Commissioner Don Suppes to take aim at community members who challenged his continued statement that the county has flatten the curve.
“That makes me happy because the whole ‘flatten the curve’ thing has to do with hospitalizations and nothing to do with cases. We’ve got some disgruntled haters on the internet, primarily Facebook that continue to talk about cases instead of hospitalizations, trying to push the fear mongering ... we need to get that information out there to fight the incorrect information that’s being put out on Facebook that these people seem to be wanting to spread,” Suppes said.
Despite having a low hospitalization rate, the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise. The county reported 65 new cases in August, the second highest month was April with 43 new cases.
“The purpose of flattening the curve is to minimize the amount of positive cases that need to be hospitalized, which has the potential to overload Delta County’s health care systems,” said Place-Wise when asked to define what ‘flatten the curve’ means to county officials.
“Our goal should be to keep those numbers of hospitalizations from rising and if we can keep deaths at two, I think we can call it absolute success,” Rajnowski told commissioners.