County reports third workplace outbreak

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Two Ouray city employees test positive for COVID-19 as government offices close to public

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Two City of Ouray employees have tested positive for COVID-l9, marking the third workplace outbreak in the county this month.

A woman in her 3os and a man in his 4os tested positive for the virus last week. Health officials say an outbreak occurs when two or more people in a facility, business or other non-household group test positive, or one person tests positive and another displays COVID-19 symptoms.

City officials have suspended operations within the department “where appropriate” and are disinfecting the facility where the employees work.

‘We’re working with the county to make sure we’re doing everything we can,” Acting City Administrator Melissa Drake said.

She confirmed that all other employees within the department are being tested, and that the two employees work closely together. But she declined to provide any other information, saying doing so could identify the employees.

This is the third confirmed workplace outbreak in Ouray County reported this month. Outbreaks were confirmed earlier this month at Ouray Silver Mines and Brickhouse 737 restaurant. A fourth outbreak was reported in connection with a private gathering.

A Ouray County Sheriff’s Office employee has also tested positive for the coronavirus.

All three local governments in Ouray County closed to the public last week. Ouray City Hall closed to the public, except by appointment, on Nov. 16. The Town of Ridgway also decided on Nov. 19 to close town hall due to increased virus levels, and Ouray County closed its buildings to the public starting on Monday. Business can still be conducted through the county’s drop boxes and offices are still being staffed so business can be arranged by contacting individual county offices.

Ouray County is now in the “orange” high-risk phase of the state’s color-coded dial for COVID-16 protocols. This means restaurants should be operating at no more than 25 percent capacity, variances have been rescinded — including those that allowed larger capacity at swimming pools — and indoor events including church services are limited to 5o people or 25 percent capacity. The state is encouraging telecommuting for office workers if possible, social distancing, hand washing and wearing masks.

County health department staff told elected leaders from the town, city and county last week that regional hospital capacities are reaching their limits for intensive-care unit beds. Leaders have asked people to weigh the risks of their holiday plans and keep celebrations small and distanced, and avoid transmitting the virus to others.