Monday, February 15, 2021

Grand County Covid management stumbles: an international embarrassment

At least 109 employees at a Colorado ski resort have tested positive for Covid-19 - CNN

A facebook friend wanted to know if I should call out Grand County Commissioners as Cuomo like, not Trump like. Gov. Cuomo has come under fire for downplaying nursing home deaths in New York. Here's the long answer. Anyone who hides figures needs to be called out, whether it is voting results or covid cases and the seriousness of the covid pandemic. Cuomo is not my governor; Trump was my president and of all America. The better term would be Trump-like, which I referenced.. Note my follow-up comment that I did retract the exact accusations that Commissioners were hiding figures after talking with Cimino, but I had also included their deceptive points calling the county orange when it was red. In addition, there are other issues I could have cited to attribute lax Covid policies for which in effect the Commissioners were vulnerable for playing down Covid..In calling their actions Trump-like is still justified because Trump admitted he too played down the danger of Covid. Their coroner was trying to downplay the numbers dying that were attributed to covid, (citing the case with which I personally know the details because I know well a co-worker), and that there are federal and state standards for attribution she should follow. There was the resignation of the long term county health official in December because she differed with the Commissioners. This was during the apex of the disease impact. We do not know what the differences were because it was not reported and kept hush-hush,, but the subsequent actions of the Commissioners of the red/orange could be suspect. .In my conversation with Cimino (who I basically respect and called him a straight shooter)), I brought this up, and perhaps they are happy I did not elaborate publicly further. If they thought they were doing a favor to business, they did not count on the worldwide black eye Winter Park Resort got for lax Covid practices. Incidentally, the world was watching, and we know because of comments in emails and phone from friends ranging from California to Europe concerned about our family's safety here.. One issue of concern I discussed with Cimino was if a visitor/Winter Park Resort skier got Covid, but was diagnosed when he/she returned home, then to which state or city was the patient attributed in the statistics. It was not Winter Park, it was the home of residence so that we could be a super spreader only getting the blame from a contact tracer. There is a delicate balance between business interests and private resort policies and public policy, but in this case, there was a backfire in placing business interests above safety interests.. Those who live here are now in greater jeopardy than we were before because of a greater chance of community spread at the same time COVID variations that are even more infectious are beginning to dominate. Colorado was the first state in the US that identified the UK mutation existence.

I wonder if Grand County was threatened by the State to go to code red, with the corresponding impact on our business: The County Health department contact tracer found two bars in Fraser and Winter Park were hot spots and closed them...much to the ire of the owners. The answer in return from the County Health Department was to move the level to red in the entire county or keep some areas orange.

  This letter below was emailed to me, Feb. 12 from Grand County Public Health:

Letter to Residents from GCPH Director

Fellow Residents:

I feel the need to clarify the actions taken by the Grand County Public Health Department (GCPH).

Our county has had sustained increased case counts since mid-January. Until the end of January, the cases were spread across the county. However, in the last few weeks, there has been a substantial trend of cases coming from Fraser and Winter Park residents.

With the sustained high transmission rates for Grand County, we were in a situation where we needed to move into Level Red restrictions for at least part of the county by Saturday, February 13.  Fortunately,  thanks to our lower hospitalization rates and our population being less than 20,000 residents, we had the opportunity to be selective with how we moved to Level Red restrictions.

With 70% of the cases in the last 14 days coming from Winter Park and Fraser, my initial proposal to the State (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, CDPHE) was to focus Level Red restrictions in those towns with the highest transmission. Upon further analysis of case investigations, there were three specific locations in Fraser and Winter Park indicated as common sources of viral spread.

I proposed to the state that we use this data to focus our increased restrictions on only those locations where transmission is occurring, and they agreed to let us use this approach. Two of the three businesses are small, locally owned businesses. In an effort to maintain working relationships with those businesses, we opted not to call them out by name. They are not a threat to community health at this point in time. Those businesses have met the additional restrictions willingly and have not been asked to close. Local support resources have been applied to help these businesses survive the reduction in business. Thank you to the Town of Fraser, the Town of Winter Park, Winter Park/Fraser Police Department, Winter Park Resort, Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, and Dr. Darcy Selenke for contributing to these conversations and working with the public health department and local businesses.

While unconventional, this approach seemed a better alternative than implementing Level Red restrictions across the entire county and/or enforcing Level Red restrictions on all restaurants in Fraser and Winter Park. If this approach does not result in lower transmission rates for Grand County, there will be expansion of higher restrictions. Yet, if our case rates decline more rapidly than expected, there is also an opportunity to lift restrictions more quickly.

Public Health has been working with Winter Park Resort since before they opened in December to try to mitigate disease spread. Until recently, their efforts had the desired effect. They provide alternate isolation locations for positive cases, testing for employees, and have a robust contact tracing program. They are willing to terminate employees that are not cooperating with isolation or quarantine orders and have followed through. They have also implemented stricter policies in their employee housing with the same consequence of termination for non-compliance. Despite the Resort Management’s best efforts to contain the spread among employees, GCPH, in consultation with the State and Winter Park Resort, decided to declare an outbreak at the Resort not only to inform the community of the situation but also to provide increased support  from the State on testing options, analysis of protocols, and containment efforts.

It is important to remember that our residents’ and visitors' response to the containment protocols affects us all. Personal behaviors have a greater impact on our ability to open than business operations. I know our community can continue to pull together to get us through to recovery. I know we can do better - follow masking and distancing guidance, limit your exposures, get tested and stay home when you are sick, and when you are able to, get the vaccine. 

I want to see us go from 2nd highest transmission in the State to one of the lowest as soon as possible. That depends on how we pull together and respond now. We can do this!

Your new Grand County Public Health Director, 

Abbie Baker-MPH, CHES



New Temporary Amendment Order Issued for Targeted Areas in Grand County

GRAND COUNTY, CO – On February 12, 2021, Grand County Public Health (GCPH) issued a new Temporary Amendment Order to the June 26, 2020, Standing Public Health Order. The new temporary amendment reflects Level Red restrictions for target areas in Grand County that have seen high disease activity and recent outbreaks. These heightened restrictions are to be in effect from Saturday, February 13, 2021, at 12:01 am until Friday, February 26, 2021, at 11:59 pm. The Temporary Amendment Order includes the following:  

  1. Temporarily amending Grand County Public Health Director’s June 26, 2020 Standing Public Health Order, and any previous amendments, from Saturday, February 13, 2021 at 12:01 am until Friday, February 26, 2021 at 11:59 pm.
  2. Activities to Be Amended and Updates to Playbook (note: these updates will be reflected in the relevant activity specific playbook and include the date of update):
  1. Playbook: Events Playbook; Activity: Update language to reflect restrictions on Indoor Events and Gatherings, not to include WorshipUpdate Indoor Event Specific Protective Measures to reflect that all indoor events, both public and private gatherings within the Town limits of Winter Park and the Town of Fraser shall cease unless operating under strict protective measures and approval through Grand County Public Health. 
  2. Playbook: Restaurant Playbook; Activity: Update language to reflect restrictions on dining inUpdate Restaurant Specific Protective Measures to reflect Level Red restrictions for The Winter Park Resort based restaurants and specific businesses identified as places where outbreak transmission had occurred in the Towns of Winter Park & Fraser. These businesses will move to take out, curbside, delivery, to go, or outdoor dining. Up to 5 members of the public are allowed inside at a time to pick up food or place an order, given specific precautions are taken by the facility to maintain a 6-foot distance. Outdoor dining is limited to one (1) household per group. Bars shall remain closed.  
  3. Playbook: Quick Reference Chart; Activity: Update capacities and restrictionsTo update capacities and restrictions for indoor events and gatherings and restaurant activities to reflect the above Activity Specific Protective Measures.

GCPH has determined that recent high disease activity and outbreaks can be attributed to community spread among individuals who are considered primary residents. Illness among visitors is not reflected in Grand County’s case counts. The goal of implementing these additional measures is to reduce Grand County’s rising case rates by targeting the areas where disease spread and recent outbreaks have been identified. We are focusing on where the greatest amounts of transmission are taking place in an effort to avoid further impacts on the county as a whole. During week two, transmission rate trends will be reassessed. If there is a notable downward trend and Level Orange rates have been achieved, Level Red restrictions will be lifted.

“I know that our community can do better and I want to challenge everyone to do whatever is necessary to move us to Level Blue because right now we are moving in the wrong direction. Only then can we be on the right path toward recovery.”, stated Abbie Baker, Grand County Public Health Director. 

Winter Park Resort and other restaurants in the area have been proactive in implementing these measures in order to address the recent case trends and this Temporary Amendment Order serves to support their ongoing response.  The businesses that will enact the pivot to curbside or outdoor service will not be specifically identified as the transmission occurred among local patrons. These businesses are working collaboratively with GCPH, taking extra measures to mitigate the transmission of disease and are committed to bringing down the case rates in the county. Businesses not targeted in this Amendment Order will continue their operations in accordance with all Level Orange restrictions, keeping public health and safety in mind.  It will take the commitment of every sector of our community in order to get our case rates down. 


Text of my facebook posting edited to reflect my conversation with Rich Cimino, County Commissioner, February 9:

It appears the spike in COVID cases in Grand County is due to WPR employees. It will be sad to see if they also then infected Grand County resident inhabitants in the community elsewhere and if nonresidence skiers in Texas and the Front Range turn up with COVID traced to Winter Park Resort. If so, all of the efforts of the County Commissioners to try to bury COVID statistics of Grand County will backfire on them. Note: in a conversation with Commissioner Rich Cimino, he denied that the commissioners were burying data, though the other points I made were correct. They were reporting statistics as they get them. He also clarified that those who tested positive were added to the statistics of their home state, county, city and in Grand County, the only statistics that counted were those who gave Grand County as their residence. He agreed with me that visitors and second homers were not counted in Grand County covid statistics and that was the policy nationwide, meaning that Grand County could be a super spreader and we did not know it, particularly given the spike in the ski area personnel with whom visitors were coming into contact.. Cimino is, in my experience, a straight shooter. I also mentioned that treating Grand County as being on an orange alert status than the red status was irritating. Eventually, such actions to help local businesses will come home to haunt them as Winter Park becomes a ski area to avoid..Other ski area towns have managed to control their outbreaks better than ours...per recent county by county maps published in the Wall Street Journal. Remember, too, we who live here will be encountering WPR ski area employees as they go to grocery stores, post offices, and restaurants endangering both visitors and locals. I am redoubling my efforts to shelter in place and fear even more for the health of those who dare to go to the post office and grocery stores on my behalf. We will seek more door delivery options and limit my helpers' exposure to the minimum. I am an at-risk senior, a permanent resident of the County, and a voter.
Most Recent Update | Grand County, CO - Official Website
Most Recent Update | Grand County, CO - Official Website
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