Not a Passing Grade

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Yesterday Fortino stopped by work for the first time since he left us for the world of concrete. He would have been by sooner, he said — except his father died. On Fortino’s birthday. Of covid-19.

He also lost his grandfather recently to the same cause. Neither of Fortino’s relatives was living in Gunnison, but for anyone out there who thinks this isn’t real, or a big deal, or isn’t going to impact anyone you know, here’s a young man who lost his paternal relatives, one of them on the very day he turned 25.

Even without Fortino’s loss, it feels like it’s starting to get real — again — around here. It happened all of a sudden yesterday. Or as suddenly as it gets when test results take nine days to come back.

On Mondays the county’s public health team offers an hour-long presentation that streams on Facebook (Gunnison County Health and Human Services page) and can also be viewed after the fact, which is what I did after getting an e-mail warning that the criteria for rolling us back to “yellow” status is creeping up.

It started with yesterday’s arrival, about 15 minutes before the presentation, of 10 positive virus tests. Eight of those came from the 26 people tested on Wednesday, July 15 — a 30 percent positivity rate when 5 percent is considered high.

Infectious disease specialist Jodie Leonard, who probably never imagined her new status as a Facebook celebrity, stressed that those testing positive are locals. If someone comes into the county and tests positive, that result is considered a positive for the person’s home county. At least from Gunnison County’s perspective. Maybe it’s a nationwide tactic, but since we don’t seem to have a nationwide guide for much of anything in this pandemic, I have my doubts.

So 10 locals came in positive over three days, which brought the total to 16 over 14 days, a positivity rate of 6.09 percent, or over the acceptable boundary. The county has seven criteria it is watching to see if we can remain “in the blue” on the “Coronameter,” and during the meeting yesterday it was becoming clear that we are already close to tipping toward yellow. And Gunnison’s numbers look better than many nearby counties, which may not bode well for our future.

Some of the criteria are completely out of local hands. For instance, we have to have hospitals that critical covid patients can be transferred to, and there are two on the Western Slope. I’m sure St. Mary’s in Grand Junction is one; maybe Montrose is the other. At any rate, one of these is already at “SAT,” which stands for “saturated,” although this has not much to do with covid and everything to do with Summer in the Rockies.

The EMS person at the briefing (I missed his name) said Gunnison transfers one, possibly two people daily in the summer, any summer. He didn’t enumerate any reasons, but there are ATVs to tip over, mountains to fall off of, boats to flip, cars to crash, altitude to adjust to . . . Ms. Leonard said our county population of just under 18,000 expands by 5 or 8,000 summer visitors.

While these folks were talking, it became clear that we had already hit two of seven markers, which ought to trigger yellow status. The chart pictured above was prepared for the meeting ahead of getting the test results, which mean we have now have three or more positives in three of the last seven days (even though the positives are almost two weeks old), and our positivity rate is above the 4.44 shown above.

Two strikes.

If a hospital not even in Gunnison gets overwhelmed with the cases coming in from all these counties with higher caseloads than ours — or even cases that have nothing to do with covid — that would be enough to turn us yellow.

It doesn’t appear that the consequences would change much for Pat’s, but our neighbors in lodging would have to go to half-capacity, and restaurants would lose all indoor seating. Which in turn could easily impact Pat’s.

So the county is begging, pleading with everything it has: wear a mask. Stay six feet away from others. Wash your hands. Try to go to the grocery once a week. Once every two weeks if you can manage it. Give up the backyard barbecues.

I just finished up another business Zoom. Attendance was probably double what it has been, and people seemed less concerned about what I assumed would be the flashpoint, the business inspections, and far more about what happens if we have to turn from blue to yellow, which in this case takes us farther from green.

I have more I could say — I always have lots more to say, even when I really don’t — but I need go take a look at my educational materials, and the ever-changing report card for businesses (the chamber director did point out to the county folks that “live” documents that can change on a whim are “stressful” for businesses who are trying to remain compliant), and see what we can do to keep ourselves and our customers safe.

As Sergeant Phil Esterhaus used to say on the TV show Hill Street Blues, “Let’s be careful out there.”

Again, a graphic prepared before we got our disturbing report of 10 positives.

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