Mesa County sees uptick in Covid-19 cases

GRAND JUNCTION, CO – Jeff Kuhr, executive director of Mesa County Public Health, delivered some sobering news at today’s regular meeting of Mesa County Commissioners. As of today, MCPH has done 5,235 tests and have confirmed a total of 118 positive cases to date. Last week, 9 cases were confirmed in one day alone.

Kuhr said that while the numbers are still low relative to much of the rest of the state, they represent an increase from 1.6% positive cases last week to 2.02% this week. One of the state requirements in order for a high-testing county to request and receive a variance on state reopening guidelines is to achieve less than a 5% “average positivity rate” over the previous two weeks.

Of the nine positive cases during that one day last week, seven were from the same family.

“Our travel related cases make up 31% of all cases,” Kuhr said. “Thirty-five percent are still unknown, but it’s still small since we’re capturing those sources of transmission via contact tracing.”

About 17% of positive cases were traced to family transmission, and another 12% were traced to public or private large gatherings. Nine percent were work-related.

“We encourage everyone with symptoms to be tested,” Kuhr said.

The demographic seeing the fastest growth rate are those in the 20-29 age range, who had previously made up about 18% of all positive cases. Over the past two weeks, that number has gone up to 25%. The second highest number of cases are seen in individuals in the 30-39 age range.

Kuhr reassured county commissioners that his department prioritizes the community’s health and safety, and that they are not “rushing it”. The next stage in the state reopening plan, called “Protect Our Neighbors”, won’t see a lot of significant changes except for a bigger allowance for group gatherings: up to 500. “There’s flexibility in that,” Kuhr said. “I don’t think the board of health would be good with that [happening right away].”

The agency is working closely with the District 51 to determine what school reopening will look like in the fall, although Kuhr was careful to point out that “we don’t yet know if we’ll have the discretion to open schools or if that’s going to be state directed.”

After the MCPH report, the commissioners read a proclamation declaring July 2020 to be “Smart Irrigation Month”. Jon Maraschin, executive director of the Grand Junction Incubation Center, followed up with a report about their programs. The incubator has been busy working with local businesses to help them respond effectively to the pandemic.

He praised in particular the Grand Junction Makerspace, which had made over 800 PPE face shields to distribute to local clinics and hospitals for free.

During the meeting’s unscheduled business segment, Grand Junction resident Ricky Howie accused Mesa County clerk Tina Peters of intimidating people collecting signatures for ballot initiatives at the county clerk’s office in 200 Spruce Street, by posting signs restricting activity around the building.

Howie also claimed that “there are complaints by election workers that there were prolonged and numerous political discussions at the clerk’s office while ballots were being tabulated.”

“There are problems in the office that need to be addressed,” Howie concluded. “I’m here to ask that the county coordinate with Jena Griswold, the Secretary of State’s office, and clarify the statute about distancing [around the clerk’s building].”

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