Pitkin County posted its highest single-week total of positive COVID-19 cases in the week ending July 12. Testing identified 28 new cases in the county. The two previous weeks held the old record, with 16 new cases each.
Those 28 cases came from 236 tests, putting the rate of positive tests at 7.08%. That is the county’s highest positivity rate since mid-May, and the fifth consecutive week with a rising positivity rate.
Pitkin County epidemiologist Josh Vance said that the increasing case count falls in line with national trends.
“We expected to see an increase given the Fourth of July holiday last weekend, so we’re not entirely surprised by the increase,” he said. “But it has been very steady.”
Although the numbers themselves don’t come as a surprise, Vance said he's worried by the factors leading to increased transmission.
“The one piece that is concerning is that it seems people are becoming complacent,” Vance said. “They’re traveling more frequently, they’re more mobile, compliance with masks has decreased.”
Health officials are growing more seriously concerned by increasing positivity rates and the presence of the virus in the community. If 10% of tests come back positive, the rate is labeled “concerning,” and local decision makers would come back to the table and consider changes to reopening plans. That rate is currently at about 7%, but has risen from about 5% over the past month.
In addition to testing, contact tracing is a critical part of the county’s efforts to track and ultimately control the virus in the community. Vance said the practice has been made harder, as some people are reluctant to cooperate with contact tracers.
“We have begun to see slight trends in non-compliance with contact tracing,” he said. “If we speak with one individual and they’re not willing to share with us who they may have exposed or been around, that really prevents us from reaching out to those individuals and preventing spread.”
Vance said rising positivity rates are an indication that some cases in Pitkin County are going undetected.
“There are still individuals out there who probably aren’t getting tested,” Vance said. “So we’re still probably missing a good chunk of people that probably have COVID and we’re not getting them tested. When that positivity rate is lower, we can feel more confident that we’re capturing most of the cases.”