Cases of COVID-19 are steadily rising in all three Roaring Fork Valley counties. In a livestreamed community meeting Thursday, public health officials from Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties discussed increasing case counts and the hurdles they face in tracking and controlling the spread of the virus.
Eagle County case counts are trending upward. Rebecca Larson, Eagle County deputy director of public health, said 35% of the county’s cases are in the Roaring Fork Valley. In identifying sources of new infections, Larson said 41% have had close contact with known cases, 6% have had exposure outside of Eagle County and 53% were not able to be tracked to an identifiable source.
Larson added that the county is experiencing delays in producing testing results, which often have 7-10 day turnaround times. She acknowledged that the delays are not unique to Eagle county, but complicate tracking efforts.
Garfield County has also experienced rising counts of new infections. Sara Brainard, Garfield County public health nurse manager, said 50% of cases are in Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. With many Garfield County residents working in Pitkin County’s service industry, she added, downvalley virus data is important to upvalley communities as well.
Pitkin County has seen a “large uptick” of infected Pitkin County residents since the July 4th holiday, with cases steadily increasing. Josh Vance, Pitkin County epidemiologist, said the county’s “Box-it-In” strategy, a four-pronged effort to track and contain the virus, is facing challenges as some people are resisting contact tracing efforts by showing unwillingness to quarantine and failing to return calls.
Dave Ressler, Aspen Valley Hospital CEO, said steady demand for testing at the hospital is still categorized as “cautious,” the second level of a three-stage scale used to determine strain on the hospital’s capacity. Visits to the hospital’s respiratory evaluation tent have yet to reach that second level, but are increasing and approaching it, he said.
The increased demand for testing is an indicator that hospitalizations will likely increase down the road, Ressler said.