COVID cases on rise in San Juan County, focused in Monticello

COVID-19 cases are back on the rise in San Juan County, with Monticello seeing a single week increase of 23 active cases.

San Juan Public Health reports an increase of 33 cases over the past week, totaling 62 cases in the county.

Monticello saw the biggest increase, going from three active cases to 26 in one week.

Blanding also saw an increase from six to 17. Bluff moved from two cases to three and Montezuma Creek and the Aneth area increased from 13 to 14.

Cases dropped from three to two in Mexican Hat and from two to zero in Monument Valley and Navajo Mountain.

Additionally, a county resident who passed in September has been classified as the thirtieth COVID-19 death in San Juan County. The man was in his 60s and from the greater Mexican Hat area.

San Juan Public Health Director Kirk Benge explains the classification of death for the man was late because he had been transported out of Utah.

Benge explains that while mortuaries and examiners in Utah all work within one reporting system, different systems in neighboring states can result in delayed reporting.

Monticello’s steep rise in cases has impacted businesses and schools in town.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Monticello High had 87 students in quarantine, with at least three verified cases. Benge says he is in contact with the school district regarding cases.

“We recognize that this is an evolving situation and as we learn of additional cases, that might change rapidly,” said Benge. “But as of right now, I don’t believe there is a plan to close any schools or move any classes virtual.

“But we do have a number of students asked to quarantine for two weeks and a number of students and staff who are currently infectious and isolating at home.”

Per state school board mandates and in consultation with the local health district, schools consider two factors.

Within a single classroom or extra-curricular activity, if three students or staff contract the disease and the infections can be linked to one another, then the schools may move that class or group into virtual learning.

If 15 students or staff are positive and there is problematic spreading, the school board, consulting the health department, may shut down the school.

Schools don’t have to meet either threshold to be shut down.

The increase in cases has also impacted businesses in Monticello, including Maverik, which shut its doors for two days over the weekend.

Benge says businesses ought to have a policy in place that allows for social distanced staff or wearing a mask if they can’t social distance, as well as rigorous extra sanitation in communal areas like bathrooms and door handles.

Benge says implementing policies isn’t just good for public health, but good for business.

“If they don’t have policy in place to protect other employees, they may end up in a situation where everyone is quarantining or unable to work,” said Benge. “So a policy should be in place even if only to prevent them from having to close their doors.”

Benge adds with the recent surge, he has received repeated questions about the length of quarantine. When someone may have been exposed, the department asks people to stay home and monitor symptoms for 14 days.

“People assume that if they get a negative test during the 14 days, they are off quarantine, which isn’t the case. Once you’ve been exposed to the virus, most people aren’t going to develop symptoms for three to 10 days.”

Benge adds about ten percent of people will develop symptoms on days 11-13. “We’ve seen several instances where people assume that if they don’t feel ill, they don’t do quarantine. You’ve still been exposed to the virus and can spread the disease.”

San Juan Record

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Monticello, UT 84535

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