COVID-19 demand remains steady at clinic despite positive county numbers

By Adam Strunk

At Health Ministries, the county’s largest primary care health provider, the number of patients coming through the doors with COVID-19 remains steady.

“We’re not seeing a decline,” CEO Matt Schmidt said. “If anything, we’re seeing a slight uptick.”
Up until Dec. 4, to get a test in county, residents had to be symptomatic; meaning those contacting their health care provider at Health Ministries must have at least some symptom.

From Nov. 30 to December 4, the clinic conducted 130 tests of patients.
“We had a 34 percent positivity rate for in-clinic testing,” Schmidt said. “What that tells you is it’s here. It’s still here and it’s not necessarily isolated.”

In past weeks, health care officials had warned about the possibility of massive spikes in cases following Thanksgiving.
County numbers released this week did not show a spike, but an improvement over the week before, a first in more than two months.

The county added 133 cases, down from 256 the weak prior. Active cases were at 369, down 115 from the week prior. The county two-week percent positive rate dropped to 11 percent from 19 percent.
Fifteen residents are in the hospital, compared to 25 residents the week prior.

“We’ve all been discussing it across the state as other counties are having that happen, as well,” County Health Department Director Lynnette Redington said. “If individuals have gone and gotten tested, we’re just getting reports from December 1, and 2nd and here we are on the 8th. We could see the spike go up. It’s wait and see,” she said, adding that the health department was hopeful residents heeded medical advice about the holiday.

Schmidt said the clinic isn’t seeing a decrease in demand that recent numbers might suggest.

“The difficult thing about this is there’s always a lag,” he said. “The actions we take today don’t show up for weeks.”
He noted, however, the demand doesn’t quite feel like an unrestrained climb.
“It feels like we’re in a steadiness, but that steadiness is at a higher level than we like it to be,” Schmidt said. “We’re seeing a lot of cases.”

On the decrease in the county’s percent positive rates, Redington said that many residential facilities continue to test residents and staff.

“They do have special requirements if they have cases,” she said. “They continue to test and we’re not seeing a lot of increase in cases with staff or long-term residents and that’s a plus.”

Schmidt said so far, Health Ministries has been able to keep up with demand, but he continues to be concerned about the scenario of staff not being able to come to work.

“We have had staff out,” he said. “That has put a strain on us. We’ve been able to manage it. One of the things that is hard about that is we’re in more of a chronic situation than an acute situation. Part of the stress is managing this over months instead of weeks.”
He said the good news was using contact tracing within the clinic he feels like actions have occurred to prevent any disease from spreading within the walls.

“I do think we’ve been largely successful at not having the spread within the clinic itself,” he said.

Schmidt said that he doesn’t see the demand for services related to COVID-19 going away any time soon.
“When you’re in Colorado and you see those signs that say ‘Truckers, don’t be fooled, there’s still steep grades ahead’, I feel like we’re going to be in the situation for a while.”

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