State discusses mitigation plan with county
Ouray County's newest confirmed cases of COVID-19 involve a woman in her 30s and her infant.
The two were tested at Montrose Memorial Hospital and were confirmed to have positive tests, reported to the county health department on Sunday.
This brings Ouray County's total to 41 virus cases, including three non-residents who are being reported by the county in its statistics.
State health department officials met in a virtual meeting lasting less than 15 minutes with Ouray County officials on Thursday afternoon to discuss a possible mitigation plan and next steps, in anticipation of more cases triggering possible changes to Ouray County's protocols for the virus.
The state assigned Ouray County to the "safer at home" level 1 cautious phase in September. To keep this designation, the county needs to have fewer than 8 cases in the previous two weeks. These newest cases pushed the county's positivity rate for the past two weeks up to 4.5 percent, according to information reported by the state health department.
Ouray County has a goal of moving to a less-restrictive phase, the "protect our neighbors" phase, but must meet certain metrics including lower infection rates, lower hospitalization rates and proving the resources exist to handle testing and hospitalizations among other criteria.
These latest cases, along with the second death of a resident who tested positive for COVID-19 last week, means state officials are talking about how to help the county lower infection risk.
During the meeting with Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Chief of Staff Mara Brosy-Wiwchar on Thursday, she asked Health Department Director Tanner Kingery what might help the county right now. She cited success with another small, rural county – Huerfano County – with a mitigation plan that included an aggressive campaign to encourage mask-wearing, as well as limits on gatherings.
In the meantime, the state health department issued a new directive on Friday limiting small gatherings to 10 people from two households.
Kingery told Brosy-Wiwchar he thinks having a new epidemiologist assigned to the six-county region to analyze data and provide insights on spread will help. "That has been bogging us down in our response," he said. He also cited plans to increase testing availability and speed as a factor that will improve matters.
Ouray County currently has a variance in place to allow a larger capacity at swimming pools. This could be jeopardized if the virus continues to spread at this rate.
"We don’t want to be in the business of taking away variances or moving you on the dial but we know that’s a possibility as long as you are out of compliance," Brosy-Wiwchar said.
Kingery said one area the county could use some assistance with is enforcement – particularly in clarifying what the state wants to be done and help with following up on complaints or issues.
"It’s hard to always follow up with complaints or do compliance checks to see how people are doing," he said. "It’s really hard to do enforcement."
Brosy-Wiwchar said she would follow up today after the weekend and plans on asking for input from legal advice in her department and possibly from the state attorney general's office regarding enforcement issues.