ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – The Tri-County Health Department warned residents to change their habits on Friday as each of their counties are reporting new cases and hospitalizations. If counties do not change course, more restrictions could be added to try and control COVID-19 from infecting more people.
“I think our big challenge is trying to figure out how we communicate hang in there, this is going to be over, it’s not over yet,” said John Douglas, the executive director of the department. “If you’re going to get together with some friends, try to make it fewer friends.”
During a two-week period starting on Sept. 24, Adams, Arapahoe, and Douglas Counties have all added more cases and hospitalizations. Adams County is the most severe with 1,420 new cases and 52 hospitalizations.
“I stay home most of the time, when I go out, I always wear a mask,” said Cynthia Vitale, an Adams County resident. “When I go shopping, I keep my distance, I don’t hang around, I used to make conversation, I don’t make any more conversation.”
Douglas told CBS4 on Friday the largest contributor to the rise in cases are social gatherings. People in restaurants, at work, or in-person learning at local schools are not causing the coronavirus to spread like large groups together in close proximity and private settings. He says people are more comfortable around people they know and spend more time with them, often without a mask and the necessary social distance.
“It’s disappointing, it’s disappointing that we can’t show that kind of respect for each other,” Vitale told CBS4 while at a local community garden. “For those people who are real social, it’s hard not to be social, it’s almost painful, I understand it.”
Arapahoe County has seen its number of cases go in different directions depending on the week but for the same two-week period starting on Sept. 24, an additional 885 cases were confirmed and 39 hospitalizations were reported. Douglas says that if the counties cannot stop the increase, the health district will have to impose a lower capacity on businesses and outdoor gatherings.
“It’s pretty normal, we just have to keep our distance, put our mask on,” said Julia Viera, a 5th grade student at school in Adams County. “It’s better than what I did in like March, April, May.”
She was outside near a local library on Friday with her mother. Their family contracted the virus in the spring and her relatives got the antibody test to confirm they had COVID-19. While they have all recovered, they are still feeling the effects of the virus on their lives. As a student, Viera hopes she does not have to return to remote learning. The transmission in schools appears to be small, in fact cases involving teachers and students appear to be infections that happened outside of school. A change in capacity and learning format would be made by the district with guidance from the health department.
“It was pretty bad, I think I had it for two weeks, my mom had it for two weeks too,” she said. The thought of changing her current routine would be a setback for her school experience. “I wouldn’t feel that great and I want to see my friends and my teacher.”
Douglas County is seeing the most progress according to the health department but still added 400 new cases and eight hospitalizations during that two-week period from Sept. 24 to Oct. 7. Tri-County Health says it is important that all communities fight the virus together, as these outbreaks are rarely specific to a certain location. Even when there was a rise of cases in Boulder County and the University of Colorado, the impact could have been felt as far as neighboring counties.
“It’s concerning, the uptick, but it’s nothing I can do about it but watch out for myself and those around me,” said Vitale. “There was a lady in the store the other day who didn’t have their mask on, and I said something to her.”
Douglas warns that the same precautions of wearing a mask and staying at least six feet apart will need to continue through the winter and during those holidays people spend indoors. He encourages staying outside as much as possible and opening a window when inside.
Beginning Sept. 28, Adams County has five weeks to turn around the trend in cases increasing before restrictions change. The dial system Colorado uses would move the county to a more severe level of “Safer-at-Home,” according to the health department. There is a two-week grace period followed by a two-week mitigation period, then one final week before the change would take place around Halloween. He also said that Adams County has a high population of essential workers who may commute elsewhere but live in their jurisdiction.
“Keep your spirits up, this is a long haul, everybody in their right mind is getting tired of this,” Douglas said on a video conference call. “This is not going to go the rest of our lives and the rest of our lives will be better if we can hang in there and keep ourselves safe.”