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Transmission of COVID-19 in our county is at an all-time high, Andrea Carlstrom, director of Chaffee County Public Health, stated in a press release Wednesday.

The health department is planning a different response to COVID-19 during the current surge in cases.

Carlstrom said the sources of transmission are varied and that the county is seeing an alarming trend in person-to-person transmission from unvaccinated household members.

The county is moving toward automating and streamlining its systems to keep up with demand that each new case places on public health and healthcare systems.

County health reported that Colorado is losing the battle against COVID-19 and is one of the worst faring states in the nation.

The state healthcare system is surging, COVID-19 patients are taking up the majority of the healthcare system’s capacity and there are grave concerns that Chaffee County’s healthcare system is just a few cases away from having to turn people away who are in need of services.

Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center recently made the decision to limit certain procedures and to implement heightened mitigation measures to protect staff and patients.

Colorado has activated the crisis standards of care, which include:

•Expanding the availability of health care workers and health care resources to combat COVID-19 pandemic and to serve patients seeking non-COVID-19 related care.

•Assuring that guardrails and supports are in place to optimize workplace safety, health care worker resilience in the face of moral and physical stress, patient safety, and health outcomes of non-COVID-19 patients.

Local incidence rates are the worst experienced throughout the pandemic, about 500 cases per 100,000 people, county health department officials wrote.

County health has had to prioritize which cases get investigated and which ones get their isolation and quarantine information in a more automated way, depending on personal accountability and responsibility for positive cases to follow isolation and forward quarantine expectations to their close contacts.

County health has been met with resistance when conducting contact tracing and case investigating, so it is moving toward a more streamlined and straight forward approach to give the public the resources in their toolkit to make the right decisions and assume the risk that not following them has on their decisions.

“As our society has chosen to live its life to its fullest, despite the global pandemic that continues, CCPH hopes that the public will continue to follow the various press releases, weekly situational awareness reports, social media posts, public health orders and the county data dashboard to assess the risk that it is willing to take when participating in essential and nonessential activities,” Chaffee County Public Health wrote.

Updates to the Chaffee County COVID-19 website are forthcoming, including a Home Testing 101 document to provide instructions on how to appropriately and responsibly test at home. The website can be found here:

Public Health also gave the following “strong” recommendations:

• Fully vaccinated activities are optimal. If this isn’t possible, a combination of vaccination and aggressive testing strategies is preferred.

• Consider moving to a virtual or hybrid model when meetings and events must take place indoors.

• Outdoors is optimal.

• There is still a 75 percent capacity limit for indoor events in the local public health order.

• Continue to wear masks in indoor public settings, regardless of vaccination status, especially when vaccination status is unknown.

• Avoid crowds, regardless of vaccination status, especially when vaccination status is unknown.

• Get vaccinated, get boosted and stay home when sick.

Carlstrom said because of the burdened system it is possible that the data they have been able to previously collect and provide on the local data dashboard may no longer be feasible to report.

“We urge the public to please consider scaling back activities and events until we can get a handle on our recent surge. Consider implementing mitigation measures as much as possible,” Carlstrom said.

Public Health “is trusting that individuals and groups will do the right thing, incorporating these strategies into their planning so that people can safely congregate. While we want to avoid further mandates or restrictions, we also must protect our healthcare system from breaching.”

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