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Mesa County Moves to ‘Cautious’ on the Dial

Mesa County Moves to ‘Cautious’ on the Dial

Dramatic daily increases in COVID-19 case counts have resulted in Mesa County moving down one level on the State of Colorado’s COVID-19 dial. Mesa County is now in the cautious, or blue, level. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and the Governor’s office require this action based on the state’s dial framework, which considers the number of cases in a two-week period, percent positivity, and hospitalizations, all of which are trending upward. A new public health order has been approved by the Mesa County Board of Public Health.

“Mesa County’s positive cases have significantly increased over the past month. Most of this is due to informal gatherings between friends and family, and people showing up at work and other places while sick, in some instances resulting in sizable outbreaks,” Jeff Kuhr, Mesa County Public Health Executive Director, said. Each member of our community can help reduce transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19. “Avoid crowds, confined spaces, and close contact,” Kuhr added.

The new level designation has stricter requirements and will be in effect for a minimum of two weeks. If case counts return to levels allowed under Protect our Neighbors, Mesa County is eligible to return to that level without reapplying. Under the cautious (blue) level capacity limits remain at 50% for most sectors; group sizes are reduced to a maximum of 175. Full guidance by industry can be found on the MCPH website

“It is imperative that we remain diligent in our efforts to help protect each other from the ongoing public health pandemic,” said Chris Thomas, President and CEO for Community Hospital. Hospital capacity is constantly monitored by Mesa County Public Health, and while not currently strained, there has been an increase in more severe illness. 

“We have seen a tremendous uptick in COVID hospitalizations, which is very concerning. We continue to work closely with the other hospitals and Mesa County Public Health as we remain ready to respond to COVID surges. Currently our supplies are sufficient but if the present trajectory continues, our ability to adequately respond could be compromised. With flu season upon us, we absolutely need to continue to practice social distancing, handwashing and wearing masks. We urge all residents to receive a flu vaccine if they haven’t already done so. We know we can navigate this successfully but it is going to take everyone doing their part. We simply cannot afford to let our guard down,” added Thomas.


A Community Effort

As part of the certification process for Protect Our Neighbors, MCPH proved to the State that strong community partnerships are in place. These partnerships are essential to our community’s ability to respond to COVID-19. Shifts on the dial have implications across all sectors of our community and economy, and we have engaged key stakeholders to ensure the new level is understood and implemented. Our partners acknowledge it’s what our community needs right now. 

“Good health for all residents of Mesa County is a top priority,” said Scott McInnis, Chairman of the Board of Mesa County Commissioners. “We care about you and your well-being and know these are challenging times. Two steps forward and one step back is still moving in the right direction,” McInnis added, urging residents to not see the move as anything other than motivation to put Mesa County back on track. 

The shift on the dial also includes an approved variance for businesses that have received a 5-star rating under the Variance Protection Program. The program, launched in collaboration with the Grand Junction Area of Chamber of Commerce, is an initiative to feature local business efforts to implement safe practices related to COVID-19. 

“The program has shown additional value beyond the original vision of assisting businesses to market to cautious consumers and reassure employees that best health and safety procedures are being followed,” said Diane Schwenke, President and CEO of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce. “State recognition of the program is also rewarding these businesses with additional freedoms that were allowed under our previous variance. This is a huge incentive for businesses to do the right thing.”

Businesses interested in the Variance Protection Program can fill out a form on the Mesa County Public Health website. 

Increasing COVID-19 cases prompt mitigation plan

Increasing COVID-19 cases prompt mitigation plan

Mesa County was one of the first counties in the state to be certified for Protect Our Neighbors status, the highest level of reopening allowed in the State of Colorado’s COVID-19 response. Since the implementation of this new phase, cases of COVID-19 have been increasing. 

In the past two weeks (September 30 – October 13) there have been 198 cases in Mesa County. This exceeds the incidence rate (50 cases per 100,000 people) allowed under the current reopening status. Measures for percent positivity and hospitalizations remain in good standing but are increasing as well. Mesa County Public Health met with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and the state is requiring a mitigation plan to restore compliance. The CDPHE approved a plan this week, including changes to group size (both at private gatherings and related to facility capacity), face coverings, and last call.

Required changes to the current public health order include:

  • Mesa County must reinstate the statewide Executive Order related to face coverings. 
  • Group sizes reduced to 300 or 50% of capacity, whichever is fewer. 
  • Alcohol consumption must end by 12:30 a.m. in bars and nightclubs after last call at midnight.

This strategy is focused on areas where the largest transmission and risk is occurring locally. Our plan has always been a phased and proactive approach, one that keeps our community’s overall health as a top priority and provides ways businesses can open safely, but it requires individual responsibility from each resident. One example of the proactive approach is our 5-star program. In collaboration with the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, this program recognizes businesses that are implementing best practices related to COVID-19 safety. To date, nearly 100 local businesses have been certified for their efforts. A full list of all the participating establishments is available on our website.

To protect yourself and others, consider the three Cs: 

  • Closed spaces with poor ventilation 
  • Crowded places with many people nearby, 
  • Close-contact settings, such as conversations in close proximity to others. 

The Board of Health will be updating the local public health order with these changes. If approved, the new order is expected to be in effect immediately. 

MCPH hosts community flu clinics, emphasizes importance of vaccine to #fightflu

MCPH hosts community flu clinics, emphasizes importance of vaccine to #fightflu

Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) is reminding our community that this year’s flu season is officially underway, and it’s likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both spread this fall and winter. The best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get a flu vaccine each year. By getting your flu shot, you will be keeping yourself and your loved ones safe.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, reducing the spread of respiratory illnesses is more important than ever. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has worked to ensure there is enough flu vaccine this season, and MCPH ordered more doses of vaccine than usual to ensure we have an adequate supply to protect our community. 

We make it easy with drive thru clinics

Mesa County Public Health is hosting drive thru community flu clinics this year. The outdoor clinics are for people of all ages, with special considerations for children. In an effort to keep the events as contact free as possible, we ask that you register ahead of time using this link. Flu vaccine is typically covered by insurance, and if you do not have insurance, you qualify for our vaccine program. Don’t let cost be a barrier.


  • Saturday, October 17th from 9 a.m.- 3 p.m. (open to all ages)
  • Saturday, October 24th from 9 a.m.- 3 p.m. (open to all ages)


  • Community Services Building, 510 29 ½ Road



  • ID
  • Insurance card – if you have it, if not, don’t worry!

Why a flu shot is important

You can get seriously ill from the flu, especially if you do not get a flu vaccine.The CDC estimates that during the 2019-2020 season 38 million people were ill with flu. In Mesa County last year, 77 people were hospitalized due to complications from the flu. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine, especially people at high risk including young children, pregnant women, people 65 years and older, and people with certain chronic health conditions. 

COVID-19 and Flu

Because flu (influenza) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory viruses, symptoms are similar and it can be hard to tell them apart.

                                                Flu (Influenza Symptoms)                                                                Also COVID-19 Symptom?

Fever/chills Yes
Cough Yes
Sore throat Yes
Fatigue Yes
Muscle or body aches Yes
Headache Yes
Stuffy, runny nose Yes
Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children) Yes

The main difference between COVID-19 and flu is that with COVID-19 you can experience a loss of taste or smell. But not everyone with COVID-19 experiences this symptom, and not all symptoms are present in all individuals. Both viruses are spread in similar ways, through droplets or touching an infected surface. You can also be contagious before showing symptoms.

Prefer an appointment?

The MCPH Clinic offers flu vaccination during regular business hours – Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday from 8 a.m. to noon.  If you would like your flu vaccine outside our drive thru flu clinic hours, an appointment is needed. We urge all residents who want to get a flu vaccine to come in and see us or give us a call at 970-248-6900 with any questions.

Increasing COVID-19 cases prompt mitigation plan

Protect Our Neighbors Emphasizes Local Solutions Based on Community Illness Levels

MCPH provides clarification on local public health order in regards to face coverings, last call, and gatherings.

Protect Our Neighbors is community-specific, and different communities will be at different phases based on local conditions and capabilities. During a press briefing on Tuesday, October 5, while explaining the state health department’s new dial approach and levels within it, Governor Jared Polis stated the conditions counties can allow for under Protect our Neighbors, based on their case counts. These are county-by-county decisions and his comments were in the context of a discussion about regional capacity and readiness of local communities to respond to manageable levels of COVID-19. We are working with the state to provide clarification on comments made by Governor Polis.

Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) has advocated for this type of local control, it’s one of the reasons we were among the first to be given this designation. The current local public health order outlines this phase of reopening in Mesa County. The public health order supports Mesa County’s efforts to continue to open gradually, prioritizing our economy while balancing public health.

Currently in Mesa County:

  • All industries (all types of businesses, establishments, and activities) may operate at 50% of normal capacity.
  • Indoor occupancy is capped at 500 people.
  • Cloth face coverings over the nose and mouth must be worn for interactions where physical distancing is not possible or when entering and moving throughout indoor public places. Face coverings can be removed while seated.
  • Last call for alcohol sales in restaurants and in on-premises retail liquor establishments can be no later than midnight.

In Mesa County, we are open significantly more than in other areas of the state, but with increased positive cases we must make adjustments that are gradual. Within the last several weeks we have seen record case counts, including a single-day record of 35 new positive cases last Thursday.

The pandemic isn’t over. With flu season upon us, our actions must also take into consideration the increased demands placed on our health care system by flu. We’re asking the community to work together and avoid the individual behaviors leading to community spread.

We are working with the state and our local businesses to open as quickly and safely as possible. Mesa County is different, we need your help to continue to prove that our local control is working, and our gradual approach is successful.

Residents, visitors, and anyone in Mesa County must follow the local order, which is not interchangeable with the State’s order. All community members are strongly encouraged to visit the Mesa County Public Health website and read the entire public health order and industry-specific guidelines.

COVID-19 Stories: Airborne Transmission

COVID-19 Stories: Airborne Transmission

Fall is prime time on the Western Slope, with temperatures perfect for dining outdoors, hiking in the desert, and taking in the colors on the Grand Mesa. However, as the weather cools, many are thinking ahead to winter and wondering whether more inside time will affect how we approach protecting ourselves and others from COVID-19. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently published a brief with the most up-to-date information on airborne transmission of COVID-19. In public health, the term “airborne transmission” is usually reserved to describe infectious particles, like measles virus, that are able to stay in the air for longer periods of time and over greater distances. 

Since COVID-19 is a new virus, we’re still learning about how it behaves. However, COVID-19 appears to be primarily spread through respiratory droplets – small amounts of moisture exhaled into the air when we breathe, speak, sing, cough, or sneeze – that carry the infectious virus and quickly fall out of the air. This is why we are advised to stay at least six feet apart whenever possible, since close contact is defined as being within six feet of an infected person for fifteen minutes or more. 

As the days get shorter and we spend less time outside, however, it’s important to be aware of the circumstances when airborne transmission of COVID-19 is most likely to occur. According to the CDC, these include: 

  • Prolonged exposure to an area where there has been some kind of exertion, such as shouting, singing, or exercise, that increased the concentration of respiratory droplets;
  • Settings with inadequate ventilation that allowed infectious particles to build up in the air; and
  • Enclosed spaces where susceptible people have either been exposed directly to an infectious person or where the infectious person has recently spent time. 

The good news is that in most situations, the everyday precautions you’ve been hearing about for the past six months, like wearing a cloth face covering, washing your hands, and maintaining at least six feet between people not in the same household, are also likely to be sufficient to protect against airborne transmission. Taking steps to improve ventilation, such as opening doors and windows and using freestanding air filters, can also help. Additional information about how to protect yourself from airborne transmission of COVID-19 can be found here.

When people are in tighter quarters for longer periods of time, as we often are during the winter months, COVID-19 spreads more easily. Cold weather and early nightfall are right around the corner. If you’ve been lax about wearing a mask or keeping space between each other over the summer, now is the time to start being consistent in following those precautions to keep yourself, your friends and family, and our community healthy.