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.