COVID-19 HHRC Update: County Variance Request, Community Surveillance Testing, Case Count, and Further Information
May 8, 2020 8:00 pm
Information shared from Grand Country Public Health https://www.co.grand.co.us/COVID19
Because clinical diagnoses can be made based on symptoms and evident exposure without performing a test, the number of positive cases reported may increase without an equivalent increase in tests performed.
County Variance Request
It is safe to say that this pandemic has affected all of us in many ways; mentally, emotionally, physically, and financially. The toll it has taken on residents and businesses of Grand County is apparent, and we all wish it would end sooner rather than later so we can get back to “normal” life. The County and the Team have been working diligently to support Grand County residents and businesses through these trying times.
The County and the Team are working toward returning to a healthy community and strong economy and hope to approach the CDPHE with a variance request. The variance request process takes time and must meet the designated criteria including robust surveillance testing, adequate personal protective equipment and expansive public health disease monitoring. A county must create an alternative COVID-19 suppression plan and must have approval for the plan and the variance request from the county public health director, all local hospitals and the Board of County Commissioners before submitting it to CDPHE. Variance requests do not exempt a county from state orders, and we must identify in the application how we will be consistent with the state’s intent. It should also be noted that counties face significant penalties for disregarding state orders, which may include the loss of public health preparedness monies from the state and CDC, and COVID-19 FEMA funding.
Community Surveillance Testing
Today Grand County Public Health (GCPH) performed COVID-19 surveillance testing on a sample of predetermined, high-contact, frontline workers in Grand County. The goal of this testing is to gauge the extent of COVID-19 transmission in our community. It was performed using a Molecular PCR Test that detects recent or active disease. The testing is free to businesses and their employees through a partnership with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). Tests are being sent to a state lab for processing and results should be returned by Monday. This testing is a critical requirement for state and local government to open more business operations and increase economic function in our county. Testing data is also a fundamental element in getting an approved variance from state public health orders and Grand County does not have much data yet.
The State of Colorado reports positive COVID-19 cases by county based on patients’ primary addresses. Grand County Public Health has reported that there are five positive cases in the county since March 12. This includes three positive test cases and two probable positives. There are now five additional cases that are “associated with” Grand County but are not included in Grand County’s total case amount as the patients have permanent residences in other Colorado counties. GCPH has worked closely with the State Epidemiological team to identify local risk associated with these exposures. The local risk was identified as low; however, this is an indication that COVID-19 is in the community and everyone needs to follow social distancing protocols and hygiene practices to avoid contracting the disease.
We are aware that the public has many questions related to Governor Polis’ Safer At Home Executive Order and the associated CDPHE Safer At Home Public Health Order. Thankfully, the State has created a webpage to address many of those questions. Visit the Safer At Home FAQ page at covid19.colorado.gov/safer-at-home-faq. For all other things unknown, rest assured that we are doing our best to prepare.
No matter what may come, together we will get through this.