May 19, 2020 Daily Update

 Today, including results returned from the outbreak in Center, there is now a total number of positive cases for the SLV of 106. Sixteen of those cases were hospitalized, and 32 have completed isolation. County case counts and other San Luis Valley data are updated weekdays at

Public health agencies in Rio Grande County and Saguache County continue to follow up on the outbreak at the Mountain King Spud Growers potato warehouse facility in Center. An outbreak is defined as two or more positive COVID cases in a workplace or other non-household facility or group.  Valley Wide Health Systems collaborated to support employee testing. So far 25 positive test results have been received related to this outbreak. Those results will affect overall COVID-19 case counts in Saguache, Rio Grande, and Alamosa Counties. Mountain King has decided to voluntarily close the facility for an additional 14 days for cleaning, as well as to encourage needed isolation and quarantine to prevent further spread of the virus. Employees who have tested positive should be isolating themselves from others. Household members and other close contacts of those who have tested positive should also self-quarantine at home. Those in isolation and those in quarantine should not leave home for any reason except to seek medical care as directed by their medical provider. 

Reopening the SLV:

It has now been a few weeks since our first non-essential businesses reopened and both the public and business owners have started adjusting to this new phase. Many businesses are working hard to keep their workplaces healthy for customers and their staff, and more people have returned to work. In the coming weeks, we anticipate seeing more gradual re-openings. The Great Sand Dunes National Park in Alamosa County announced they will begin a phased reopening on June 3rd. On May 25th, the State will decide if restaurants can begin reopening and at what level. In June, the State will decide what additional things can be phased back in. In the meantime, the State is continuing to review proposals submitted by Colorado counties to vary from the Governor’s Safer-at-Home Order, primarily seeking looser restrictions. So far, four counties in the SLV have submitted variances, and two have been approved.

Why submit a variance? 

Many local communities in Colorado, particularly rural areas, differ greatly in their economic dynamics from the Front Range or from the state as a whole. What works best for them is not necessarily what will work best for us. Local governments have the freedom to implement rules that are more restrictive than the state order, but loosening restrictions requires a formal variance approved by the state. Each County considers the risks and benefits inherent in applying for looser restrictions, including the at-risk populations living there, as well as the economic consequences of keeping businesses closed. Some counties decide that a variance is in the best interest, and decide to pursue a variance. 

How does the variance process work? 

County governments determine the requirements necessary to meet goals that balance the risk of disease exposure with economic recovery. If the decision is to pursue a variance from the current statewide orders, it is drafted, reviewed by the County Attorney, and submitted to the State. Certain criteria need to be met before approval by the State: 

  • The jurisdiction needs to have very low case counts and/or demonstrate proof of 14 consecutive days of decline of infection of COVID-19 in the jurisdiction.
  • The application must include a written COVID-19 suppression plan approved by the appropriate local public health authority, all hospitals within the jurisdiction and elected leadership. 

More information on the variance process can be found here:

What about the SLV variances?

Currently, Mineral County and Rio Grande County have approved variances. Today, Rio Grande County Public Health released a new Order in line with the variance. The variance is specific for RV parks, places of worship, restaurants, and gyms, and each has a separate set of restrictions which must be met. These entities may now open at a specified capacity, but that may change if a certain data threshold is reached in the future, as determined by the Rio Grande County Board of Health. The full text can be found on their website: Alamosa and Saguache Counties have also submitted variances and these are still being reviewed by the State. 

More on Testing:

Yesterday Governor Polis emphasized the expanded availability of testing in Colorado. In the San Luis Valley, public health and local partners have determined that the most efficient way to do testing for the general public is through our local health care providers. The State’s map for testing sites omits our local providers in the SLV, and we are working to correct that omission. Earlier in the pandemic, supplies were more limited and the criteria for testing was much more restrictive than it is now. Symptomatic individuals are encouraged to call one of the nurse-lines below to start the screening process.

  • Rio Grande Hospital 719-657-4990
  • SLV Health Nurse Line 719-589-2511 ext. 9
  • Valley Wide Health Systems 719-589-3658 ext. 9

SLV COVID general questions 719-480-8719. You may also email your questions to

May 19, 2020

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