New case of COVID-19 confirmed in Ouray County

  • COVID-19, courtesy Center for Disease Control
    COVID-19, courtesy Center for Disease Control
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Ouray County has its second confirmed case of COVID-19 in less than a week, after a staff member of Mountain Medical Center tested positive for the virus. A woman in her 30s is the latest confirmed, active case of the virus in the county, according to the Ouray County Health Department.

The medical center announced a non-clinical staff member was tested as a precaution, after experiencing limited symptoms of the virus. At this time, the woman is believed to have contracted the virus from outside the workplace. She is quarantined at home, according to the clinic. Health officials are conducting contact tracing to notify anyone who may have been exposed or at risk for contracting the virus from this person.

As a precaution, the entire clinic staff was tested today for COVID-19 and the medical center said it will release the results of those tests in the interest of public health. Ouray County Public Health Director Tanner Kingery said the agency performed 13 tests at the clinic that will be sent to the state lab today and they're expecting results by Monday.

Dr. Joel Gates, the owner of the clinic, also said he has implemented the use of N95 masks for all staff in the meantime during encounters with patients. 

"We feel that potential risk is low, but not non-existent," Gates said in a release.

The clinic is offering telehealth appointments to patients at this time if they don't want to risk exposure by coming into the office.

Anyone who visited the clinic between June 15-19 who has questions or concerns is invited to call the medical center to speak with staff.

The latest case of the virus prompted health officials to reiterate their advice to people to continue social distancing, wear face coverings in public and to be vigilant about washing hands to limit community spread of the virus. Neighboring San Miguel County reported several new cases this week, including a group of positive tests from teenagers who had gathered together.

"It's still real and it's still here and there are still risks," Kingery said.

Continued positive cases in Ouray County could jeopardize the restaurant variance the county received for increased capacity of diners indoors, as well as a pending variance requests for pools to have larger capacities of swimmers. The county's restaurant variance allows an indoor seated capacity of 100 people or 50 percent capacity, versus the statewide rule capping dining rooms at 50 or 50 percent capacity, whichever is less.

The state health department wrote a provision into the approved variance for restaurants stating that five new cases of the virus in any two-week period would trigger the variance to be automatically rescinded.

The county's pool variance request is still pending. At this time, pools within the county can operate under the statewide rules, which cap pool attendance at 50 swimmers or 50 percent capacity, whichever is smaller. Ouray County has asked for up to 200 capacity to be allowed at pools. The city has tentatively said it wants to reopen the hot springs pool next week, with the hope it can increase capacity if the variance is approved to make opening financially sustainable.

If Ouray County reaches five new positive cases in a two-week period, "No pun intended, but it would probably sink our pool variance," Kingery said.

At a joint meeting between the City of Ouray, Town of Ridgway and Ouray County leaders Thursday night, officials expressed concerns about lax compliance with requests to wear face coverings in public.

Both the city and town adopted resolutions encouraging people to cover their faces in public, and many businesses in both Ridgway and Ouray have posted signs asking patrons to wear masks to enter their businesses. But officials said they worry poor compliance with the request from visitors may result in community spread of the virus, combined with lack of proper social distancing. The main concern centers on the risks of contracting the virus from others in enclosed spaces or when people are standing closer than six feet apart.

At the beginning of the pandemic here in the U.S., face coverings were not recommended. But the Center for Disease Control has since changed its recommendations and said face coverings can help slow the spread of the virus. The goal is to limit droplets that can spread the virus to others when speaking and breathing, especially if the person is infected and doesn't have symptoms yet so they're unaware they have the virus.