Ouray County’s mass COVID-19 testing event yielded three confirmed positive cases out of 618 tests. The two-day testing event last week was held in response to an outbreak traced to a private social event last month.
A woman in her 50s, a man in his 60s and a man in his 20s received positive test results. The man in his 20s was previously a “probable” case that was being monitored.
At this point, local health officials believe they have contained the outbreak, but are also bracing for a possible uptick in cases due to the Labor Day weekend.
“It will be kind of a lagging indicator,” said Ouray County Public Health Director Tanner Kingery, adding there was a slight increase in cases after Fourth of July as well.
In the last two weeks, Ouray County has had four new cases (three confirmed and one probable), there are currently four active cases being monitored in quarantine. There have not been any new cases in Ouray County since Sept. 3. There have been 19 confirmed positive cases overall, six probable cases and three non-resident cases since the pandemic started. The current positivity rate in Ouray County is 2.2 percent, according to Kingery.
A new color-coded system for rating counties’ infection rates and risk factors is scheduled to launch on Friday, and this system will be tied to variances. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the new color wheel system will have five different colors, indicating different levels of risk in counties. The highest level of risk will be “stay at home” severe, and the lowest level will be “protect our neighbors” careful.
The county is also expecting a new phone app to help with contact tracing. Colorado is the first state scheduled to roll out the “Exposure Notification Express,” an app the state is launching with Apple and Google to help track COVID-19 cases. The details were revealed in a press conference with Gov. Jared Polis on Tuesday.
Phone users will be able to opt in to the app and activate it, and it is designed to keep track of other phones that come within 6 feet for at least 10 minutes. If the time and distance thresholds are met, the phones exchange anonymous “tokens” via Bluetooth.
“If you test positive you have ability to send push notifications to others to notify them of exposure,” said Kingery.
However, anonymity is guaranteed, and the person contacted won’t know where they were exposed or who exposed them. This will allow strangers who opt into the app to notify others who were in their vicinity that they may have been exposed without compromising their identities.
The app is expected to be available by the end of September, according to state health officials. One of the goals of the app is to allow people to attend larger events, including Denver Bronco games.
National guard help
The Colorado National Guard members who have been assisting Ouray County with the pandemic may be able to stay, if the county agrees to pay for a portion of their salaries.
To keep the two positions assigned to help the health department until Dec. 31, the county would need to contribute 12.5 percent of their salaries, with the state picking up 12.5 percent and the federal government paying 75 percent. Kingery told the joint policy group last week that is an estimated $13,000 to keep both members here until the end of the year.
Code of conduct for meetings
The bi-weekly multi-agency coordination meeting on Wednesday afternoon started with an announcement from Ouray County Sheriff Justin Perry about expectations for behavior from participants. A new code of conduct, which wasn’t yet written, will be centered on respect and courtesy, Perry said.
“We must respect one another,” he said, adding that he’s heard “a lot of folks are very disappointed with some of the behaviors that have been displayed.”
He added any speech that is construed as belittling or demeaning, or any threats, will not be tolerated.
“That person or persons will be removed from the meeting,” he said.
Perry’s comments follow two previous tense meetings with participants from local government agencies and comments from the public.
In the last multi-agency group meeting two weeks earlier, an extended back and forth between Ouray City Councilman John Wood and county staff centered on Wood pressing for more details about the origin of the outbreak.
County Emergency Manager Glenn Boyd followed Perry’s comments by reminding the group that only basic details about positive cases – including an age range, gender, and the test date – would be released by the county. He asked others in the meeting not to dig for more details and to keep medical information confidential in the meetings, even if the person who tested positive had chosen to identify themselves publicly elsewhere.
Perry’s comments also come on the heels of the joint policy group meeting between town, county and city officials last week, which included more than 100 participants and comments from members of the public who expressed frustration with the continued statewide mask order.
The majority of the commenters thanked county officials for upholding the statewide mask orders and said they appreciated the measures taken to prevent infection. But a vocal minority pushed back, saying they think the pandemic is political and accusing officials of “playing God.”
“This pandemic is nothing more than a power grab by the government,” said Ken Orvis of Ridgway. “This is overreaching and we will not tolerate tyranny.”
Orvis said this tyranny would be met with “whatever force is necessary,” and “if you heard this as a threat, you’re right.”
On Wednesday during the multi-agency coordination meeting, Perry urged everyone in the meetings to be respectful and to focus on working together to get through this difficult time.
“We’re all wanting this pandemic to be done, but it’s not done,” he said.