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County prioritizes contact-tracing as COVID-19 cases skyrocket

Clear Creek County has experienced hundreds of COVID-19 cases over the past several weeks and has 10 confirmed fatalities since March 2020.

Because of the sheer volume of cases, the county’s public health nurses are only contact-tracing for students in local schools and those older than 60, Public Health Director Tim Ryan said during the Jan. 18 county commissioners meeting.

Ryan recommended that those experiencing symptoms stay home for six days and get tested. He said the at-home antigen tests aren’t very accurate, as they were designed for symptomatic people to take in a serial fashion. For more accurate results, he recommended people find sites with PCR tests.

Clear Creek will continue to host testing sites three days a week around the county, as well as its Wednesday vaccination clinics.

While nationwide case counts were starting to plateau as of Jan. 18, Ryan said Americans need to take the omicron variant seriously. Even though, as a variant, it’s less severe than delta, U.S. fatalities are approaching 2,000 a day, he said.

Ryan believed that this omicron-driven wave will continue for many, many more weeks.

Regarding whether the current wave will see COVID-19 become more endemic like the flu, Ryan said it’s possible, but he’s still concerned.

“When there’s 1.6 million cases per day in a single country, it only increases the potential for a new variant to develop,” he said, referring to the United States. “… It has the potential to get us to the endemic point … but the virus doesn’t really care what we think. It will continue to change.”

Canyon trail expected to be finished in spring

The newest segment of the Peaks to Plains Trail in Clear Creek Canyon should be done this spring, according to county staff.

The segment will be about a quarter-mile long, starting near Tunnel 5 and the Oxbow trailhead.

Martha Tableman, coordinator for Clear Creek County Open Space, explained at the Jan. 18 county commissioners meeting that the project’s original deadline was Dec. 31. However, it was extended to April 28. Open Space, the Colorado Department of Transportation and the contractor are trying to determine whether there are cost implications. However, Tableman felt confident the project will still be within the contracted amount — $3.8 million.

Tableman clarified that the county only paid $12,000 plus staff time, as the bulk of the project was funded by grants from CDOT, Great Outdoors Colorado and Colorado Parks & Wildlife, among others.

While it’s still a steep price tag, Tableman clarified later that this is a very technical section of trail. It goes under U.S. 6 and had to be built on dozens of micropiles, which she compared to the poles that hold up piers, but on a much smaller scale.

“That allows the water to go underneath (the trail) and not cause pressure,” she said on Jan. 19.

Although only a quarter mile, it’s a key trail section that will set up the next segment, Tableman continued. The next one will extend to Tunnel 6, and Open Space is still determining funding mechanisms for it.

I-70 Floyd Hill project estimated at $700 million

The Colorado Department of Transportation is gearing up to get the Interstate 70 Floyd Hill project underway.

The agency was scheduled to hire its construction manager and designer this week, so they can start work in April, according to Kurt Kionka, CDOT’s Floyd Hill project director.

During the Jan. 18 county commissioners meeting, Kionka said the project is estimated at $700 million, and CDOT still needs to find $200 million. The agency hopes to receive grant funding to help close the gap.

Once the designer and construction manager are on board, Kionka hopes CDOT can determine the best alignment and finalize a design.

CDOT’s two potential designs are a tunnel at the bottom of Floyd Hill near the current U.S. Highway 6 junction or a canyon viaduct starting in the same area. The canyon viaduct is still the preferred option at this point, Kionka said.

Either design will take four or five years to complete, CDOT has previously estimated.

The broader project will include wildlife crossings both east and west of Floyd Hill as well as roundabouts along U.S. 40 at the top of Floyd Hill. These smaller projects are expected to be done first, likely starting this summer.