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Health department reports first COVID-related death since July

La Plata County resident was between 70 and 80 years old

La Plata County has reported its third death among people who had COVID-19 at the time of death, according to San Juan Basin Public Health.

Since May, Colorado has provided two death statistics involving the novel coronavirus outbreak: deaths among people who had COVID-19 at the time of death and deaths directly caused by COVID-19.

SJBPH reports only “deaths among” cases, and leaves it up to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to officially determine whether a person’s death is a direct result from COVID-19.

The CDC, however, doesn’t make those distinctions public until a county reaches 10 deaths as a way to protect the health information of people, especially in small communities.

Brian Devine with SJBPH said the agency was notified by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on Tuesday about the latest death among cases, which comes four months after the last reported death in July.

Devine had little information Wednesday, other than the person was a La Plata County resident who was between the ages of 70 and 80. The person died at Mercy Regional Medical Center on Nov. 6.

“We’re still trying to track down some of the details,” Devine said Wednesday morning.

A spokesperson with CDPHE said details about individual deaths are not publicly available because the information is confidential and protected by state law.

A request for comment from Mercy was not returned Wednesday, which was a federal holiday for Veterans Day.

Devine said the person was part of a previous contact-tracing investigation, but SJBPH did not know the person was hospitalized until informed of their death by CDPHE.

The reported death comes at a time when La Plata County is seeing a dramatic rise in cases.

La Plata County has reported 242 positive cases in the past two weeks, as of Tuesday morning. That’s more than the county reported from when the pandemic started in March until early August.

La Plata County will move into a more restrictive public health order, starting Friday.

jromeo@durangoherald.com

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