Routt County Considers Additional Public Health Orders to Combat Rising COVID-19 Cases

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, CO, January 27, 2021 – In the Board of the Health meeting today, County Commissioners and public health officials discussed the necessity of new public health orders in Routt County to address the alarming number and continued upward trend of cases in the past few weeks. As of Tuesday, Routt County’s case were at 313 and the positivity rate at 8.96%. The Board of Health identified a number of restrictions, including limiting personal gatherings to one household, as a way to address rising cases. Routt County’s public health team and legal team plan to present a new public health order to the Commissioners on Monday, February 1st for consideration by the Commissioners, and the Board of Health requests that everyone adopt the revised rules prior to Monday to the greatest extent possible to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community.

Routt County Commissioner Chair, Tim Corrigan said “I am in support of the recommendations and I look forward to seeing the details so we can implement as soon as possible.  If our only goal was to limit disease spread, we would shut everything down, but we need to come to some type of balance of disease control and the good of the rest of the community. We are doing our best to protect both our citizens and our economy.”

Public Health Recommendations

Public Health Director, Roberta Smith outlined recommendations for the Commissioners based on the COVID-19 dial. “We are at a bad spot and we need to do something…We can’t just sit here and hope.  As we ave mentioned before, hope is not a mitigation strategy. The state has not moved us to red yet, but I believe we need to put some targeted strategies in place now that could avoid full closure. Our main goals are to reduce disease prevalence and get kids back in school.”

Ms. Smith recommended the following the COVID-19 dial  for a new public health order for Routt County, implementing some Level Red and other restrictions as follows:

·       Limit gatherings to one household only – including seating at restaurants (Level Red restriction)

·       10% capacity limit for offices (Level Red restriction)

·       Prohibit indoor events (Level Red restriction)

·       Require contact tracing logs and health screenings at businesses

·       Limit the time customers spend in restaurants                      

  “I am supportive of this direction proposed by Public Health,” said Commissioner Beth Melton. “I have participated in several different conversations with constituents and business owners over the past few days about how to address this alarming trend.  I really appreciate the commitment from the business community to help with messaging and recognize that messaging alone is not enough. We need to do everything we can to reverse this trend while minimizing the economic impact. None of us want our businesses to get hurt and prevent further damage to our economy….  This is a troubling situation, and it is really hard.  I want to thank everyone at Public Health for their hard work to balance all of these considerations and putting forth these recommendations.”

The Commissioners directed the public health staff and legal team to work together to present a public health order recommendation by Monday, February 1st.

COVID-19 Case Counts

 Routt County epidemiologist, Nicole Harty gave her weekly report to the Board of Health.   “Our incidence rates are the highest to date. Our positivity rate is increasing, in spite of some of the highest testing rates we have seen and some of the highest proportion of asymptomatic cases. This means the increasing positivity is not a fluke in the data. Our hospitalizations are stable.”

“Our single week case count is 169 cases. In the week of November 16, if you exclude cases among residents of long- term care facilities, we had 140 cases. This week, we had a 20% increase in cases from our previous high.  As was true last week, the story in Routt County and much of Northwest Colorado is very different than the state as a whole. Routt County Public Health was notified of 50 cases on Friday alone.”

 Ms. Harty explained some of what they know from their contact tracing investigations, “Known contacts are our largest contributor to cases. It is the highest it has been since before Halloween. Community spread is lower than it has been. The risk is in gathering with those you know. Known contact includes social gatherings and cases associated with business outbreaks. Our community continues to gather with friends and family from multiple other households. It is not just the 20–29-year-old age group. It is also community members in their 50s and 60s. We have multiple instances of 6-12 person gatherings with most or all of the attendees testing positive.”

“Businesses are being negatively impacted by these gatherings because they are needing to temporarily close in order to mitigate the disease spread. We know it has been a long time since gathering together and celebrating was safe. We all want to gather and celebrate life events and milestones, or simply see our friends. The fact is, gathering with friends and family is very risky right now.”

“Our case investigation data indicates that our community is not choosing the right behaviors and activities to lessen the spread of disease. There are multiple gatherings in which members of three, four, or five households gathered at bars, restaurants, or someone's home for extended periods and most, and sometimes all, of the attendees end up testing positive for COVID. These individuals have gone to work not knowing they were exposed and are then exposing their coworkers. These social gatherings are major contributors to the twelve new suspected outbreaks we are investigating this week in businesses and restaurants. According to the Colorado Social Distancing Exposure Risk Dashboard, the exposure risk within Routt County due to other Routt County residents is 3x higher now than it was over New Year's. Exposure risk due to visitors to Routt County has not meaningfully changed.”

“I am a COVID survivor” added Commissioner Tim Redmond.  “I remember my early

days in construction and working in restaurants. I could not afford to miss a shift.  If I had a mild cold, I would still go to work.  People in this situation, like I was, have no safety net to pay for their food and pay their rent.  I don’t have all the answers. But if we really want to tackle this virus, we need to fund support for the people who cannot afford to take a day off of work because they are sick.”

County Medical Officer, Dr. Brian Harrington added “We have always understood, and continue to understand, that COVID-related restrictions have an impact on public health factors separate from COVID-19 infection.  This includes those social determinants of health related to employment and financial well-being, mental health, and schools.  Several considerations make our current consideration of a complete county shutdown different from previous times.  Providers are now employing therapeutics that were not previously available.  Our care of infected individuals has improved and has resulted in fewer hospitalizations and fewer critically ill patients.  Our local and state hospital capacity remains good, and the state hospitalization numbers have been trending down.   Overall disease prevalence is falling in Colorado.  We now have vaccinations.  As our vaccination rate increases it will start impacting disease prevalence in Routt County.  I want to emphasize that at our current high disease prevalence, we cannot test our way out of it.  Yet, our local testing capacity and the turn-around time for results arguably is the best it has been throughout this entire pandemic.”


Brooke Maxwell, Public Health nurse, gave an update on vaccinations in the County. “As of Monday, 750 people that are 70 and older have received the vaccine. We have a population of about 2600 people in this age group and we need to meet 70% of that population before we are able to move on to the essential workers in the lower part of the 1B category. We are probably between 25% and 30 % now.  We hope to do a mass vaccine clinic soon, but we are unable to execute at this time, due to the limited amount of vaccine we are currently receiving. We have a venue, we have the staff, we have dates, but we don’t have vaccines.  We ask that our community members continue to have patience with us as we are governed by the state and their vaccine allocation decisions. It is frustrating and we will continue to submit orders for large amounts in hopes that one day soon they will actually send us more than 100 doses at a time.”

Ms. Smith added, “We had a second dose clinic for Casey’s Pond and The Haven. Our most vulnerable populations have been fully vaccinated. We also were advised that two weeks after your second dose, you no longer have to quarantine.”

Dr. Brian Harrington, County Medical Officer shared his analysis on vaccinations. “In contrast to the “thorns” we have discussed today regarding our high and rising county disease prevalence, the latest vaccination news is a small “rose” of sorts.  To our surprise, we ended up with 390 new vaccination doses in the county to be given as first doses.  The Public Health department received 100 doses from the state.  In addition, Public Health was able to use 90 doses that had been given for second doses, and instead use most of them for first doses since they were not needed this week for second doses.  And finally, Yampa Valley Medical Center, through their UCHealth affiliation, was given an additional 200 doses.  The Public Health department transferred 100 doses to the South Routt clinic where they were given.  Ninety doses were given to Lyon’s Drug store, and they were able to extract and give 96 doses.” 

“Based on reports from our county vaccination providers, we have given 2,248 first doses in Routt County.   Yampa Valley Medical Center has given 1,149 doses; Public Health 600; Lyons Drug Store 196; Northwest Colorado Health 181; and Walgreens 122.  Using a county population approximation of 26,000, this results in 8.6% of our county population having received a first vaccination dose. There are now 771 Routt County residents who now have been fully vaccinated with two doses.  Yampa Valley Medical Center has given 621 second doses, and Public Health has given 150 second doses.”

“I wish to acknowledge that Yampa Valley Medical Center has administered over half of the vaccinations in our county.  We appreciate the leadership of our local hospital in this regard and the benefits we have received through their affiliation with the UCHealth system.”

“Everyone should expect weekly modifications to the state’s vaccination prioritization plan.  In any given week, Governor Polis may announce changes to the groups given priority for vaccination.  Based on their disease modeling, they are making updates to achieve the biggest bang for the buck to reduce death and suffering with those vaccinations that are available to be given.”

“There are two important steps that Routt County citizens can take to obtain a vaccination.  First, sign up for the Routt County . If you are not able to fill out the form, please call and staff will help you.  Second, sign up on the My Health Connection app at or call the UCHealth COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline at to be placed on the list.”