Clear Creek has 16 active COVID-19 cases, as of Tuesday, the most the county has experienced since the pandemic began, according to county officials.

Director of Public & Environmental Health Tim Ryan said that county staff members are doing all they can to isolate these cases, and contact-trace and quarantine those close to them. He confirmed during the Oct. 13 commissioners meeting that the bulk of them are still linked to travel with three or four cases indicating some community spread.

While he believes the county has a good handle on the current cases and their contacts, he said that, if the trend continues, Clear Creek will experience restrictions.

Two weeks ago, Clear Creek was under Safer-at-Home Level 1 restrictions; last week, the county was moved to Level 2; and, as of Monday, Clear Creek moved to Level 3.

However, Ryan clarified his statements last week that local restaurants and events would have to decrease their capacity because of the county’s move to Level 2. Clear Creek actually has a two- to four-week window to change the trend before implementing restriction, he said, explaining that this would eliminate a yo-yo effect on businesses.

Thus, if the trend doesn’t change, Level 2 restrictions could be implemented next week, he said.

“The reason we’re seeing a significant spike is that a third of the county doesn’t believe in this (pandemic),” Ryan continued, “another third are growing tired of wearing a mask and social distancing, and are becoming lax, and the other third are doing what they’re supposed to be doing.”

He said large social events and a lack of belief in science is fueling these spikes state- and nationwide.

Ryan continued to recommend people wear masks, social distance, wash hands frequently, limit the number of trips to crowded places such as the grocery store, and minimize social interactions in close quarters.

On a good note, Ryan said Thursday’s virtual town hall had a strong turnout and people asked good questions. He and other county staff members anticipate holding virtual town halls every month.

Also, the county and school district are working to implement new guidelines and protocols from the state to minimize the number of people who’d have to quarantine if there’s a positive case in a school. Ryan said he now has a seating chart for every class period in Clear Creek schools to help with those efforts.

With ski season almost underway, Ryan said the state is expected to release its final guidance for ski areas next week. He has gone over Loveland Ski Area’s operational plan but is still waiting on Echo Mountain’s.

Loveland and Echo are a bit unusual among Colorado’s ski resorts as they don’t have any additional restaurants, shops or overnight lodging attached to them, he explained. Thus, because interactions with guests is relatively minimal, the biggest concern is preventing viral spread among employees.

Overall, Ryan said that residents are doing a great job of taking precautions, but on the business side, he’s concerned with the growing trend of employees refusing to wear masks for medical reasons. He said there’s no way to verify whether their reasons are legitimate or if it’s merely an excuse.

“I’m still trying to figure out the best way to approach those businesses,” he continued. “To me, (they) are the biggest threat to the county right now, and that list (of them) is unfortunately growing.”