Nearly 30% of the population of Larimer County -- 103,000 of 350,000 residents-- are considered highly susceptible to severe respiratory complications from the COVID-19 virus.
From the date of our first COVID-19 positive case on March 9, the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment has been working along with the Office of Emergency Management, other County employees, volunteers, non-profit organizations, and municipal partners to suppress the spread of the virus in our community.
With the help of Larimer County residents, we have been successful in flattening the curve. In fact, we have been more successful than all of our neighboring counties and other counties of our size in Colorado. One only has to look at the numbers to see the positive impact of the work that has been done over the last two months.
On March 31 there were 98 individuals working on the response to this public health crisis. As of May 10, we have 137 individuals working on the response. The increase is largely due to the need to increase contact tracers to assist in suppressing the virus.
On March 31, we were only able to test 20 individuals county-wide for COVID-19. Today with help from our hospitals we can test 500 people daily. Additionally, our percent of positive tests has reduced significantly as testing has increased.
On March 31, it took nearly seven days to receive test results. Today we are receiving results in 24 hours. This shortens the time it takes our case investigation team to make contact with those exposed to the virus and thus shortens the exposure of asymptomatic individuals in our community.
Today, our hospitals are reporting 70% less COVID-19 positive patients being treated and nearly 60% less ICU beds in use from March 31.
Additionally, the alternate care site at The Ranch will be ready soon, should life-threatening cases spike, and overwhelm our current medical capacity. Personal protective equipment is also now readily available to our first responders and health care workers. Finally, we now have an education team in place to help businesses in our community reopen safely.
But the curve doesn’t go away. COVID-19 will remain a threat in our community until a vaccine is widely available. But Larimer County residents have shown they are ready and able to work together to reopen the economy while protecting our most vulnerable individuals.
We know we must continue to physically distance and quarantine when necessary, and we must wear face coverings in public to slow the spread of the virus by asymptomatic individuals.
Larimer County has submitted a variance request to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to allow us some local control and decision-making responsibilities for industries like restaurants, gyms, theaters, pools and events like graduations.
We feel we have the suppression measures and early warning indicators in place to safely move into this next phase of safer at home. Again, unfortunately, the curve doesn't go away and for that we need Larimer County residents to remain diligent in our unified mission to protect the most susceptible in our community.
Tom Gonzales is the Larimer County Public Health Director