Mesa County is still seeing a steady increase in COVID-19 cases, a trend that started at the beginning of August, according to Mesa County Public Health.

For a large part of October, case numbers in the county were around 80 per day, according to public health spokesperson Stefany Busch, but the more recent numbers show cases in the high 90s with days in the 100s.

Hospitalizations and deaths are also on the rise, Busch said, which makes sense because increases in hospitalizations and deaths generally follow increases in cases.

In September, there were 19 COVID-19 deaths in Mesa County, Busch said. In October, that number has jumped to 43 as of Friday afternoon, the deadliest month for COVID-19 in Mesa County since December, 2020.

Last year, the county saw cases rise in October and November, Busch said, and it’s seeing the same thing this year.

“It’s an eerie deja vu that we’re not thrilled to see,” she said.

Public Health is encouraging the community to pay attention to COVID precautions and work to mitigate the spread of the virus, Busch said, including getting vaccinated, wearing masks, avoiding potential high transmission areas and practicing general good health.

COVID IN SCHOOLS

Eight D51 schools are currently in the universal masking protocol: Loma Elementary, which entered Oct. 15; Scenic Elementary, which entered Oct. 20; Redlands Middle School, which entered Oct. 21, Tope Elementary, which entered Oct. 25; Broadway Elementary, which entered Oct. 26; Pomona Elementary, which entered Oct. 27; and Dos Rios Elementary, which entered Friday.

Schools go into universal masking if their COVID-19 rates go above 2%, and they can get out of universal masking after two weeks if they are below 1% for the second week of that period. Loma Elementary is scheduled to come out of masking Monday.

Up until this recent stretch, there had only been a handful of schools that had to go into universal masking, D51 Assistant Superintendent Brian Hill said, and the district administration is paying attention to the trend.

No schools have had to move off-site so far, which is the goal, according to Hill.

“That is the goal and it is being achieved,” he said.

There’s no hard trigger to take a school to remote learning, Hill said, but the administration looks at the number of students and staff out with COVID-19, the number of staff out for other reasons, and the number of substitute teachers available, Hill said.

Basically, the school needs to be able to function, he said.

Although the district hasn’t had to move a school off-site, the situation isn’t ideal, Hill said. Teachers are being taxed and there’s a shortage of available substitutes.

Principals and central office staff have had to become substitute teachers at times, he added.

Last year, the district saw a spike in cases around Thanksgiving, and the district will make adjustments as needed should there be another spike, although he hopes there isn’t one.

Another worry is the district hasn’t gotten the in-school rapid testing online, even though it signed up for the state program in early September, Hill said.

Most of the schools have rapid tests and the nurses have been trained to administer them, Hill said, but the district is still waiting on registration links and consent forms from the state.

In the meantime, Mesa County Public Health is testing students at the fairgrounds, Hill said.

Colorado Mesa University reported 34 new COVID-19 cases this week, and a two-week case count of 64. The university’s COVID-19 data dashboard lists the campus alert level for COVID-19 as green, but some people think CMU isn’t doing enough to stop the spread.

Sarah Swedberg, a history professor, said she’s concerned with students not being required to mask up in class, especially with some students potentially being immunocompromised or otherwise vulnerable to the virus.

“Masks aren’t perfect, but they’re better than no masks,” Swedberg said.

Swedberg said faculty members who are concerned about what they feel is a lack of support from the administration about requiring masks in classrooms, which she said can only happen after an outbreak happens.

Swedberg said she has taken her concerns to the administration, but they have not been addressed.

“The administration is putting us all at risk,” Swedberg said