With 85 new COVID-19 cases in 14 days, nearly 40% of the county’s 215 total, Mesa County Public Health and its local hospital partners gathered on Thursday to say they feel ready and prepared for the resurgence.
“If you go back to May 20, that’s when we originally alerted the community to the possibility of a resurgence in COVID-19,” St. Mary’s Medical Center President Bryan Johnson said. “That’s how viruses work. We’re seeing that rebound now.”
Of the new cases in the last 14 days, 21% have been in the 20-29 age bracket with 21 of the 85 cases linked to outside travel. Mesa County Public Health announced the county’s first death related to COVID-19 earlier this week.
Each of the area hospital heads felt more prepared now for a resurgence than they’ve ever been.
“We are well-controlled, well within our plans and capacity and well within our hospital capacity and resource limits,” Johnson said. “We are better prepared now than when the initial strike hit us.”
He described the resurgence that Mesa County was experiencing as limited but growing.
“We are absolutely more prepared today than we were in March,” Community Hospital CEO Chris Thomas said. “Low volumes have allowed us to stock up on PPEs. I think if this does bounce back we are going to be well-prepared.”
Mesa County Public Health Executive Director Jeff Kuhr said it was hard to believe that it’s been nearly five months since their first coronavirus briefing but asked the community to stay vigilant during a month that typically sees hospitalizations increase for the county.
Mesa County’s single-day high on Wednesday came after a week of single-digit case days.
“We came off of 4, 3, 3, and 7 case days so it was looking like we were starting to stabilize, so if we have a good day today that will be really good news,” he said.
While Kuhr said there have been some inconsistencies with the numbers because of the amount of time it takes for testing results to come back, he didn’t think Wednesday’s total was because of it.
“There were five related cases in yesterday’s 14,” he said. “That’s what really contributed to that high number. We’ve had small clusters like that throughout.”
“I would almost praise these clusters because that tells me that Mesa County’s contact tracers are working,” Colorado Canyons Hospital and Medical Center Dr. Korrey Klein added. “If we can find the small cluster, then it can be contained before it became a large cluster or in that pot of unknowns.”
Getting the testing results back quicker was something they all would like to see improved.
“Rapid response on testing is going to benefit everybody because it drives our length of stay and ability to protect our associates,” Johnson said. “We’d certainly be advocating for a testing site here because what we are seeing is sending 2-3 days, to now 5-7 days and all indications ... that will continue to grow.”
Kuhr said he had his sights set on getting a testing site closer to Mesa County.
“We may open a Western Slope laboratory to serve the state of Colorado, which would be great for us,” Kuhr said.
Thomas said the long turnaround time affects how they use their supplies.
“If we could have turnaround faster, that could dictate how we treat or what we utilize,” he said.
Community Hospital also receives around 40 rapid tests a week that they can take in-house in under an hour that are only for emergency cases. Thomas said they’ve done around 2,500 COVID tests total.
“The problem is we are seeing that 5-7 day turnaround from third parties,” he said. “We’re constantly talking to different vendors about how we can improve on that.”