Western Colorado county reports first COVID-19 death

July 22, 2020 GMT

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) — Health officials in western Colorado have reported the first confirmed death from COVID-19 in the county on Tuesday.

Mesa County Department of Public Health Executive Director Jeff Kuhr said the person who died was identified as a woman in her 80s who had underlying medical conditions, The Daily Sentinel reported. He declined to provide further information due to privacy regulations, such as where or how she contracted the virus.


“I do think that this is the time for people to know that this person was in such a condition with a compromised immune system that she wasn’t out in the community,” Kuhr said, adding that the message here is that people should be thinking about others and who they could potentially infect.

About 33% of infections in the county in the past two weeks are people ages 10 to 29, he said.

“If they’re not worried about themselves, I would appreciate it if they would be worried about infecting others in the community,” he said. “Unfortunately, that ended up with our first death in Mesa County, and we don’t want any more deaths.”

Mesa County has recorded 201 confirmed virus cases as of Tuesday and 71 newly confirmed cases in the last two weeks, health officials said. Seven other people are currently hospitalized.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

About 34% of all new cases are as a result of traveling, while another 34% are in community spread, possibly because of those travelers, Kuhr said. As a result, the department has offered to test anyone who has returned from a trip where they might have been exposed or during their travel time.

Residents are encouraged to limit their risk of exposure by avoiding large gatherings, limiting time spent in crowded places, and reducing non-essential trips, even to the store, officials said.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But for some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

“I think people are recovering from the mindset that we’re not being affected here in Mesa County,” Kuhr said. “We’re not at the point where everything is OK in Mesa County and we can do just about anything we want.”