Cases of COVID-19 are increasing at a dramatic pace throughout Larimer County, including Estes Park. From March through September of this year, Estes Park recorded 41 cases of COVID-19. From October through the date I am writing this column, roughly a month and a half, we have added 151 cases. While not a perfect metric due to the small size of our community, it is worth noting that Estes Park now has the highest number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents of any community in Larimer County.

All of the above information is available on the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment's (LCDHE) website (https://www.larimer.org/health/communicable-disease/coronavirus-covid-19). Cases can be viewed on the COVID-19 Dashboard, or can be downloaded into an Excel file. The Dashboard gives cases broken down by community (using zip code), provides information on deaths and outbreaks within Larimer County, and also provides information on key risk factors that LCDHE is watching closely.

As I write this column, six of the eight risk indicators tracked by LCDHE on its COVID-19 Dashboard are indicating a high risk for Larimer County. This includes new positive cases in the last 24 hours, days in the past 14 with more than 15 new cases, days in the past 14 with more than 10% positive tests, the 14-day test positive percentage, the 14-day case rate per 100,000, and the number of COVID patients in the hospital. We are seeing the largest amount of positive cases per day and highest hospital inpatient count since the pandemic began. COVID-19 is here and it is spreading. The state has moved Larimer County to "Red" on its dial framework, with implications for most types of businesses. Learn more at https://www.larimer.org/health/communicable-disease/coronavirus-covid-19/safer-at-home.

We have had positive cases across multiple facilities within the Town organization. These cases have highlighted the fact that even with precautions, there is risk any time that people gather, whether that be at work or outside of work. We are handling these cases with great care in order to protect our employees, the public, and the critical services provided by the Town. When the fallout from a positive case impacts the level of service provided to the public, we will continue to communicate this in a transparent manner - as we did with the Finance Department and Utility Billing impacts this month.

Getting together in groups, even with people you know, is part of why COVID-19 numbers are on the rise in our community. A significant percentage of recent cases has been tied to indoor gatherings between more than one household. Saying "no" to get-togethers with friends and family is never easy, but right now it's the best way to protect your health and the health of those you care about, as well as to slow the spread of the virus.

I know that this is tough advice to swallow, especially with the holidays coming up. It is never easy to modify a holiday tradition, especially in a year that has been marked by so many compromises already. However, it is the safest thing to do not only for yourself and your family, but also for your community. There is too much ahead of us to jeopardize the safety of our high-risk friends and family members.

Even in these tough times, our community has a lot to be thankful for. We were able to make it through the summer and early fall with low case-counts, allowing a more-normal-than-expected season for the small businesses that are critical to the economic vitality of our community. We were spared the devastating impacts of wildfire when the East Troublesome Thompson Zone Fire stopped unexpectedly in Rocky Mountain National Park roughly a mile from the Town boundary. Thousands of men and women came to help us. We live in a place of unparalleled beauty with access to outdoor recreation amenities that are coveted by many as they rediscover the outdoors due to pandemic impacts.

On the horizon of 2021, we have the promise of vaccines to help restore normalcy to our society. Meanwhile, we ask for your support during the months ahead. Please do all you can to support local businesses by shopping local, supporting local restaurants, and using local services. Remember to stay home if you feel sick, wear a mask, social-distance, wash your hands often, and socialize just within your household, for now. Together we'll get through this. From my family to yours, I wish you peaceful and happy holidays.

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