Archuleta County seeing increase in severity among COVID-19 cases

Map courtesy Gov. Jared Polis’ office
On Tuesday, Gov. Jared Polis presented a map showing the two-week incidence rate per 100,000 of population for Colorado’s counties, which revealed Archuleta County is in the highest category.

By Randi Pierce
Staff Writer

“There’s no doubt that increased testing means increased cases, but we’re seeing increased sick people with COVID, so it is not just the increased testing,” Pagosa Springs Medical Center (PSMC) CEO Dr. Rhonda Webb told the board of the Upper San Juan Health Service District (USJHSD) Tuesday evening.

That board oversees PSMC’s operations.

Earlier in the day Tuesday, Gov. Jared Polis presented a map visualizing two-week incidence rates for Colorado’s counties, with that map showing Archuleta County in the highest category — or more than 100 infections per 100,000 people (which helps adjust for population) — of new confirmed positive cases.

“And red is kind of where alarm bells should be ringing the most,” he said, adding later, “And, frankly, every county that’s seen case growth needs to take prompt and bold action to reverse that.”

Polis later noted that 15 counties in the state had been notified that if they cannot slow the trend of new cases within two weeks, their variances would be taken away.

Polis added the state is also watching those counties with high incidence rates that do not have variances — the category Archuleta County falls into. 

“We want to work with counties in this critical window to get them strong and back on track,” he said.

Webb told the USJHSD board it is unclear if Archuleta County will have to revert to an earlier Safer at Home phase if it continues to be red, with PSMC Chief Administrative Officer Ann Bruzzese indicating it was implied.

Clarification from Polis’ office and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment was not available by press time Wednesday.

“This message that came today reflects what we’re seeing here in the hospital,” Webb said. “We are seeing an increase in symptomatic and sick patients, so we are transferring patients out who are sick, quite sick, to higher levels of care.”

Later in the meeting, Chief Nursing Officer/Chief Operating Officer Kathee Douglas noted that PSMC has had around seven hospitalized patients who were either confirmed COVID-19 positives or presumed positives who were discharged prior to their test results coming back.

She added that PSMC transferred three people to a higher level of care Tuesday and more the previous day.

“That is concerning to us,” she said. “That has not been the trend.”

She noted that PSMC’s hospitalizations were not lengthy stays and those patients were not critically ill.

“In the last few days, we’ve seen a lot of critical illness,” she said.

Webb noted that, because of the increase in cases, PSMC has started moving some employees back to working from home.

She also stated that PSMC has had employees who do not have contact with patients who have tested positive, noting that PSMC employees are rigorously screened and tested.

PSMC remains open and safe, she noted.

Tracking community activity

As part of its efforts, San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) is using phone data to track what is going on in the communities it covers.

SJBPH Director of Communications Claire Ninde wrote in an email to The SUN Wednesday that, as of the most recent data, 23 percent of Archuleta County’s activity was of Archuleta County origin.

Another 29 percent was of Texas origin, she noted.

“Not all of the 77% of activity that is non-Archuleta County are tourists – some are non-resident workers, accessing services, seeking medical care, etc.,” she wrote.

COVID-19 case counts
The following information was current as of press time. 
Archuleta County
Residents: 34
Residents recovered: 8
Nonresidents: 30
La Plata County: 192
Conejos County: 21
Rio Grande County: 87
Mineral County: 18
Hinsdale County: 3
San Juan County, N.M.: 2,946
Rio Arriba County, N.M.: 281
Jicarilla Apache Nation: 207

This story was posted on July 30, 2020.