Outbreak confirmed in City of Ouray offices

  • COVID-19, courtesy Centers for Disease Control
    COVID-19, courtesy Centers for Disease Control

The suspected outbreak among employees for the City of Ouray is now a confirmed outbreak, according to positive test results released by the health department this morning.

Two city employees have tested positive for the virus at this time – a woman in her 30s and a man in his 40s. This brings Ouray County's total COVID-19 cases to 103, with 52 cases in the past two weeks.

Acting City Administrator Melissa Drake said the person with the confirmed positive case was tested during the mass testing event at the Ouray County Fairgrounds on Nov. 11.

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," 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.

Ouray City Hall closed to the public, except by appointment, on Monday after state health officials moved Ouray to "high risk" level orange on the state's COVID-19 safer-at-home dial. The move reduces business capacity in most cases from 50 to 25 people and nixed the variance allowing increased capacity at pools. The Town of Ridgway also decided last night to close town hall due to increased virus levels, and the county will be closing 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.

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.

Ouray County is now in the "orange" high-risk phase of the state's color-coded dial for COVID-19 protocols. This means restaurants should be operating at no more than 25 percent capacity, variances have been rescinded and indoor events including church services are limited to 50 people or 25 percent capacity. The state is encouraging telecommuting for office workers if possible, social distancing, hand washing and wearing masks. 

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

Some people are adjusting their holiday plans this Thanksgiving, opting for other ways to celebrate.