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As county residents prepare to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday – in many instances very differently than in past years – the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 shows no letup, locally or statewide.

As of Nov. 20, the date of the latest Chaffee County Public Health update, new cases top 100 for the month, which isn’t over yet. There have been 46 confirmed cases just in the past week; 78 in the past two weeks. New COVID-19 restrictions are being levied in counties surrounding Chaffee and statewide. At least two of the local cases this week have included two staff members at the Buena Vista Correctional Complex, where an outbreak began in late October.

The Governor’s Office announced earlier that at least 15 counties, including Denver, would be moving to the Red and a new highest risk level would be added – Purple. Friday, Weld County officials said they would not be enforcing the additional restrictions brought on by being moved to a higher risk level due to rapidly growing cases, despite the Governor announcing the county was running low on available hospital beds.

Chaffee County is under some additional restrictions from the state COVID-19 status wheel under color Orange – High Risk, from color Yellow – Concern. Health officials have pleaded with the public to follow well-known precautionary measures to lessen the current community spread and prevent more lock-down-style restrictions.

More than 550 cases have been recorded in Chaffee County since the pandemic broke out, not counting nearly 50 cases of out-of-county infections. A total of 20 deaths have occurred among those infected.

Testing efforts have been increased, and the health department announced changes in test result notifications due to increased demand for tests on Nov. 20.

The press release stated:

The COVID-19 team at Chaffee County Public Health (CCPH) recently changed its process of exposure notification for COVID-19 test results. The change is due to the increase in demand for services related to COVID-19 and the realization that there is currently not enough capacity to address the increased need.

CCPH will continue to contact all positive cases and execute the contact tracing process for individuals who have tested positive. However, at this time, CCPH cannot guarantee that it will be able to contact the individuals with negative cases.

The COVID-19 tests provided by CCPH are available and free for all residents. Currently, the tests are a mouth swab with results coming back within 48-72 hours.

Recipients of tests administered by CCPH need to keep an eye out for the text notification that is automatically available through an outside testing company. A text will alert a person if he/she has tested positive or if he/she has tested negative.

For those who do not have a texting plan, they will need to alert CCPH at the time of appointment scheduling.

If test recipients have not received a call or text after the 72-hour time frame, they will need to send an inquiry to health@chaffeecounty.org. At that point in time, CCPH will make contact within one business day.

In addition to taking note of this recent change, all Chaffee County residents are asked to be mindful of the following:

  • Isolate if you are symptomatic.
  • If you have been exposed to someone who tested positive, quarantine even if you are not having symptoms.
  • The 14-day quarantine period begins at the time of your last exposure and must be completed regardless of your test results.
  • A negative test does not release someone who is already in quarantine.

For questions about the new changes regarding CCPH’s exposure notification process, send an email to health@chaffeecounty.org.

The CCPH COVID-19 team also relayed a letter to the community, expressing appreciation for the community’s understanding and cooperation in the midst of this life-changing pandemic:

“Dear Chaffee County:

How can we ever thank you for the incredible services you have provided this year? The pandemic has stretched us all in more ways than one.

Like you, CCPH has navigated many complex scenarios since the spring. We have learned some hard lessons along the way.

While learning new lessons, we are reminded of something we have always known to be true: Any time one single individual goes to work with any type of illness, the backlash of this could be detrimental to other co-workers and to customers/clients/patients.

As we experience exponential spread of COVID-19 in our community, state and nation, we all need to do our part to avoid another Stay-at-Home order. It is critical that no worker goes to work, no customer goes to a business, no participant goes to an activity if experiencing any COVID-19 symptom. Given our declared state of emergency, there should be no exceptions.

Unfortunately, CCPH is identifying trends in which spread of the virus could have been prevented if a symptomatic individual did not go to work or an activity. Every single new positive case inches us toward a Stay-at-Home order. We all must do our part to protect our county.

Please, stand with us and make the commitment to not contribute to the spread of COVID-19. Please follow the five commitments of containment. Take the Chaffee’s Got HEART pledge today!

Again, we are in awe of all that you have done in 2020 and all that you have done for many years prior. May the days to come be healthier and stronger.

With much respect,
The CCPH COVID-19 Team”