Increase in COVID cases may threaten variance

Garfield County has recorded 44 new cases of COVID-19 between June 8-21

June 24, 2020

GARFIELD COUNTY, CO – A concerning uptick in COVID-19 cases could put Garfield County’s variance from the state in jeopardy. The county is now at 244 cases since the pandemic began, with 44 being diagnosed between June 8 and 21.

The variance could be rescinded if the county sees 60 cases in any two-week period. More concerning is that the current pending variance request could be jeopardized, as well as the possible move into the next state-wide phase of Protect Our Neighbors. It is unclear whether the state will allow counties with high level of disease transmission to move into the next stage.

On May 23, the state approved the county’s Safer at Home variance, which allowed restaurants, houses of worship, fitness facilities and gyms to re-open at 50 percent of the posted occupancy code limit, provided they met additional safety requirements, such as strict social distancing. This allowed a capacity at restaurants and places of worship of up to 175, rather than the state’s number of 50.

“We are concerned. We realized that we would see an increase in cases as we opened, but this many cases in this short of time was unexpected,” said Garfield County Public Health Director Yvonne Long. “We worry about our community’s health, in conjunction with our concerns over our economic recovery. Now we’re worried we could lose our existing variance or be unable to move into the next phase because our transmission rates are too high. This is why it is so important to remember the things that we can do to control the spread.”

Recent cases identified in Garfield County are not all linked, meaning they stem from different sources. While some cases in the past two weeks are associated with outbreaks, most are not. Many cases are from clusters, in which family, close friends or co-workers spread the illness to one another. A small number of the cases report not knowing where they contracted the virus. When a person doesn’t know how they contracted the illness, the case is considered “community spread.”

Chart gauges transmission threat level
Garfield County has adopted a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) color-coded chart that helps identify the risk of transmission. The tool assesses the risk to the community and outlines the chances the county will receive future variances from the state.

“(We) evaluate variance requests based on local epidemiological data to assess whether the county requesting the variance has a disease prevalence that is LOW, MEDIUM, or HIGH,” CDPHE said of the chart. “Other metrics are considered as well, such as the two-week case trend, percent positivity of tests, and whether outbreaks exist and are contained. The variance will be commensurate with the local virus transmission and disease burden.”

Under this assessment, Garfield County is in the high-risk category for the period of June 8 – 21. For a population of roughly 61,000 to be in the low category, there would have to be 15 cases or less in two weeks; medium would be 16-30 cases; and high is considered 31-60 cases. Garfield County has now jumped from low to high risk in a short period of time.

Data available in real time
Advances in testing are allowing results in most cases in 24 to 48 hours. It is essential that anyone with symptoms be tested within the first two days of its onset. These advances give Garfield County Public Health a more accurate reading of disease spread in the area.

Some are not quarantining themselves after exposure
A major concern for health care workers is that some people are not quarantining themselves after possibly being exposed to COVID-19. There appears to be confusion regarding what it is and why it is a vital strategy to prevent further spread of illness. Examples are if someone on your child’s sports team tested positive and your child was in close contact; if you carpooled to work with a co-worker that later falls ill; or if someone you live with tests positive for the disease.
In these scenarios, there is a high likelihood that you have been exposed and may be able to pass the virus on to others, and you must quarantine yourself. Garfield County nurses conducting contact tracing have seen many instances of people not in quarantine passing the illness on, in some cases seeing the 3rd and 4th generation of disease transmission making it difficult to trace back to one event or exposure date.

A simple rule is if you have spent time with someone who has COVID (time means as little as being within 6 feet for 10 minutes or more) you need to stay at home or stay put in the same location for 14 days so you don’t spread disease to healthy people. If you become ill, begin following isolation directions.

More masks, more distance, more business
Garfield County has also adopted the mantra, “More masks, more distance, more business,” to remind people that simple actions go a long way to improving the local economy.

“In order for our businesses and our economy to continue operating under current conditions, we are relying on everyone, adults and their children alike, to take personal responsibility so that we can move forward and enter into the next phase,” Long said. “We all wish the pandemic would end. We all would like to go back to our normal ways of living life. And the good news is that we can do more of that if we all commit to taking three simple steps: keep our germs inside a personal face covering, maintain social distance from others and continue to wash our hands well and frequently.”

The latest updates can be found on the county’s website at

County sees 40 new COVID-19 cases in past week-|