Montezuma County has seen a spike in new COVID-19 cases, according to the county Health Department and Southwest Health System.
As of Oct. 16, there were 174 total confirmed positive cases, up from 147 positive cases on Oct. 5, an 18% increase in 12 days.
The county reported 30 active cases, up from 16 active cases on Oct. 5. Four people have died from the disease, including one last week.
Statewide, new cases jumped from an average of 550 per day in early October to an average of 1,000 cases per day by mid-month, an increase of 80%, according to Colorado data compiled by the New York Times.
Montezuma County is in the yellow “Concern” category, third highest out of five levels. The level is a result of hitting a two-week cumulative incidence of 137.6 new cases per 100,000 people. The two-week average for positive tests is 4.5%.
“Numbers are up again, and we need to think about lowering our exposure levels or there will be restrictions from the state again,” said Marc Meyer, SHS pharmacist and infection control director.
Montezuma County is rated high as a transmission area in Colorado, he said.
The resurgence in cases is likely due to community spread as groups gather more indoors during colder weather, and from increased contacts from schools starting up, SHS officials said during a webinar Oct. 14.
“With more gatherings indoors, the number of cases rise,” said Kerri White-Singleton, SHS chief operations officer.
To reduce new cases, officials urged the public to be vigilant and avoid group gatherings, wear masks, wash hands frequently and practice social distancing.
“It is our responsibility as a community to do the right thing so we can avoid more restrictions,” Singleton-White said. “We know wearing masks and social distancing work.”
Quarantining and staying home when exhibiting symptoms also are key to keeping new cases down.
A big concern is the potential for more group gatherings during the approaching Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
“Consider how safe that is, be cautious with holiday plans. This pandemic has changed the norm,” White-Singleton said.
Health officials urged people to put off that “night out with friends” for a while and resist the traditional travel and large family gatherings over the holidays.
“If we continue at this rate, we could have 500 cases by Christmas,” Meyer said.
COVID testing continues to be available at the Southwest Memorial Hospital drive-thru clinic on the north side of campus.
SHS now has a supply of the experimental medicine remdesivir to treat patients who are severely ill with COVID-19, officials said. The treatment is thought to speed recovery time and has an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. Remdesivir is an antiviral and is only used to treat severely ill patients who have been admitted to the hospital, and they must sign permission paperwork for it to be administered, Meyer said.