Despite a summer with low-numbers of COVID-19 cases, and ample amounts of applause from Larimer County Public Health officials for the town’s businesses, workers and people diligently following the county’s protocols, the COVID-19 counts for Estes Park have of late been spiking.

As of November 14, Estes Park has had 180 confirmed cases and seven deaths since data collection began, with 103 cases and one of the deaths occurring since November 1. Larimer County has had 6,659 cases and 63 deaths, with 195 cases reported during a recent 24 hour period.

The COVID-19 Dashboard for Larimer County indicates the county is at HIGH risk for spread of the virus. The county’s HIGH rating, while alarming can be deceptively comforting for Estes if we forget that the data for Estes Park (est. population 6,400) are a subset of the data for the county (est. population 300,000). When cases in Estes rise more rapidly than they do for the county then the actual risk rating for Estes, if there was one, could be higher than the HIGH rating given the county. I will be taking up this issue during the recently initiated weekly phone updates of the Larimer County Health Department. At an opportune time, I’ll ask that actions and supports be assigned proportional to case rates.

Many of us are wondering why a spike in COVID-19 cases now happening in Estes? I suspect the answer to that question will be complicated, multifaceted, and unlikely to arrive anytime soon. It is possible some townspeople contracted the virus during evacuation, and then brought it here. Perhaps a few of the 2,000-plus firefighters who came to save Estes and surrounding areas from wildfires represent factors. Perhaps the escalation is due to Halloween, or in-person classes, or church services, or tourists, or gatherings of families or friends, or people spending more time indoors or lapses from judgement.

Although the cause of the spike is as yet unclear, comments I’m receiving about the virus from townspeople couldn’t be clearer. Here’s a typical sequence.

“Wendy, I’ve been diligent and look what’s happening.” Followed by, “Being separated from family is difficult.” Then, “I’m so tired of COVID.” After which each person invariably puts aside deep disappointment, sadness, and fatigue to say, “But Wendy, I’m not giving up. I refuse to let the virus win.”

The never-give-up attitude was certainly present at the fairgrounds on November 4 when 286 of our townspeople were tested for the virus. Although most results were negative, there were some positive findings, many of them asymptomatic. However, every person by volunteering to be tested did ace the exam for being a responsible resident. As did two local pastors with whom I talked recently, who informed me that, thanks to congregation-wide efforts, one church here has no cases and the other only two cases.

Though we are tired of being cooped up and weary from conforming to safety regulations, this is not a time let down our guard. Instead, with Thanksgiving a week away let’s give everyone the gift of caring. Remembering that each of us is important to someone, the action of one affects us all, and that together we will stomp the spike.

PS – regarding mention of the Pioneer Award in last week’s report out, my apologies for inadvertently referring to the Estes Park Museum Friends & Foundation Inc. as the Friends of the Library.

(2) comments

doodles

Wendy, I really liked the positive tone of your article as well as the reference to not let our guards down. If anything, keeping our guard up shows concern, love, and thoughtfulness for our valuable older population, as well as those who have other conditions which could make COVID far worse for them. And that population may not be in nursing homes or retirement centers. They could be right next door! My dear husband is in that crowd---very very high risk and at home (and sometimes in the hospital).

I heard something interesting today from a nurse at the Estes Park Health Center. She said that it would be a concern for the hospital if COVID wasn't tamped down in Estes Park. She felt like the hospital just doesn't have enough personnel to keep up with rising hospitalizations if COVID kept infecting certain people in our town.

Bottom line, sometimes someone in a leadership position is damned if they do and damned if they don't in decision-making about this. But most of us know you are doing the very best you can in this challenging time. And we appreciate you for that.

DKDenning

Hi Wendy. Thanks for this update. I'm concerned, though, that you're suggesting that the risk to Estes Park might be higher than the county data suggest, without having seen any data to support the conclusion.

Naturally this matters because the Town's response to country data might then be disproportionate to the actual risk posed by most residents. That could be disastrous for small businesses, not to mention the mental health and physical affects of a response based on no (or inconclusive data).

I did a bit of digging myself and found two things which I'm sure have already come to your attention (and to the attention of the county and the governor). The first is that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data in early September showing that the survival rate for those with Covid is 99% under the age of 70. For those over 70, who may also have comorbidities that put them further at risk, the survival rate is 95%.

This is not to say Covid isn't a) highly infectious and b) lethal to certain people. But it IS to say that it would be a mistake to make public policy by over estimating the risk to the general public from Covid. That's what concerns me with your remarks, which is why I'm seeking clarification.

The second data set comes from the county itself, which reports 'cases' by town, age, and gender, date confirmed and status (confirmed, probable, suspect). If I read the data correctly, October showed 35 cases in Estes Park, eight of which were attributed to patients over the age of 70--those most at risk from Covid. That's 22% of all infections for the month and may include the 'outbreak' at the living center (although the data don't say).

So far in November (through the 19th), there are 123 new cases, with 13 of them being attributed to patients over the age of 70. I should note the case data doesn't currently report the number of 'resolved' cases, nor does it indicate (in any place I could find) what constituted a hospitalization (I'd be interested to know if this is someone who has merely visited a hospital, or whether it's defined as someone who has been admitted to the hospital for treatment...can you clarifty?)

My concern is that fear is being whipped up around the number of cases to justify what would be extremely damaging lockdowns to local businesses, not to mention the negative educational outcome effects on kids stuck at home, nor to mention the rise in alcohol and drug use, domestic violence and depression (which is bad enough around the holidays for many people).

It doesn't make sense to me to mandate quarantines for healthy people, or people who have to be tested to even know they were infected. And I haven't even mentioned the precedent of depriving people of the freedom of association--something most people were willing to do to 'flatten the curve' but may now may be told they HAVE to do any time case numbers go up.

Shouldn't we be doing more to protect those most at risk, namely those in nursing or retirement homes? And if we're following the science, and the science says 99% of people recover from Covid, what possible justification can there be for a 'purple' level lockdown that would be hugely negative for the lives and lively hoods of Estes Park residents?

Looking forward to your reply.

Dan

PS Here are the county numbers and the CDC report of September 10th. It's possible I've interpreted them incorrectly.

https://speedtest.larimer.org/covid/index.php?t=1605894472873&gid=1219297132&csv=cases

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/planning-scenarios.html?fbclid=IwAR3DvH5umpJxiObUDTKBckeBAfqudrtvzWfQhYiUfHeEhCFeg5UXzalabGg

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