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COVID-19 doesn’t have a heart. Chaffee County does.

As the tsunami described by Chaffee County Public Health Director Andrea Carlstrom during a COVID leadership roundtable this week edges ever closer to Chaffee County, our county status is changing. The county moves to the COVID-19 Orange level as of 5:00 p.m. tonight. Dec. 4.

This makes the urgency of following the Chaffee Public Health COVID messaging ever more urgent. The campaign sets a message for every letter of the word ‘heart”, all steps that can reduce the chances of the virus spreading faster through the community.

On the state’s COVID map, nearly half of Colorado counties are in Red, or barrelling toward Red, with a new color, Purple,  added to the dial for extreme — “we’re going over the falls” — disaster. No county is at Purple – yet.

Sixty of Colorado’s 64 counties have each had more than 350 COVID-19 cases. Only Ouray, San Juan, Hinsdale, and Gilpin counties haven’t accumulated the case numbers that signal community spread.

Chaffee County’s move is measured, given what is happening in other counties. This morning Pitkin County, home of four major ski resorts, added a requirement that anyone traveling into the county, or who leaves the county and returns, has to sign an affidavit that they have either quarantined or been tested multiple times for COVID-19 with negative tests.

In Eagle County, officials have extended their public health order through Dec. 15 to reduce gatherings where community spread is occurring; only members of the same household may gather.

Chaffee is no longer the center of the state’s ‘Yellow’ doughnut hole on the COVID Dial Dashboard. As of today, Lake and Fremont Counties have also moved to the Orange level. Only Gunnison and Saguache counties remain as Yellow on our southwestern border.

Colorado COVID-19 cases have topped 250,000, climbing with no sign of a downward trend, and deaths have topped 2,700. This week, the state is seeing 30 deaths per day, and the surge-on-top-of-the surge expected from the Thanksgiving holiday has not yet hit. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) is projecting another 2,000 Colorado deaths from COVID-19 before the holidays.

Nationwide, the country stood at 11 million cases on Nov. 20. Only 12 days later, the nation had more than 14 million and the number is advancing toward 15 million. A person is dying from COVID every 35 seconds in America.

By Christmas, we could top 320,000 deaths. By February, the U.S. could see 5,000 deaths per day from COVID-19.

The prediction by the IHME* is that by Easter Sunday, the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 will top 538,893.  This tops our losses in World War II; the U.S. lost 407, 316 in the second World War.

Major hospitals across the country are taking the unprecedented step of appealing directly to their governors, asking for stricter public health orders to help stem the tide that is overwhelming hospitals.

Yes. vaccines are coming; at least two — the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccines — will be used in Chaffee County. Shipments designated for healthcare and first responders and long-term care facilities are expected to begin arriving by the end of the month; assuming the Food and Drug Administration approves the vaccines later this month.

But it will be springtime before they are available for general distribution, people will continue to sicken and die from COVID-19. People still need to follow the five general commitments of Chaffee’s Got Heart.

Editor’s Note: *The IHME is The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, a research institute working in the area of global health statistics and impact evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle.