Letter to the Editor – Tom Gonzales

Tom Gonzales. Photo courtesy of Larimer County.

This Letter to the Editor is solely the opinion of its author.

It does not reflect the opinion of this newspaper.

We intend to present messages from both sides of the aisle.

Tom Gonzales, Larimer County Public Health Director

One year ago, our world came to a halt.

On the morning of March 9th, 2020, I was attending a Board of County Commissioners meeting, giving updates on the national COVID-19 status, when the phone rang. The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment was calling to inform me of our first positive COVID-19 case in Larimer County. From that moment on, for all of us, everything changed. 

Since this first reported case one year ago, the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus has since infected at least 20,806 of our residents. At the time of this writing, we have lost 229 people in our county to COVID-19, one of which I knew personally; a father who won’t be returning to his family. I think about this tremendous loss every day and mourn alongside so many who have lost loved ones to this virus.

I am so proud and fortunate to be a part of the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment. When I came back to Larimer County in the role as your Public Health Director in 2018, I never thought I would be helping to lead us through the worst pandemic in over one-hundred years. In the past 12 months over 312,000 COVID-19 tests have been processed in Larimer County, our team has managed 345 outbreaks, we have made 48,000 contact tracing calls, and we have answered over 20,000 phone calls in our Joint Information Center. Our Department has worked with so many partners in the health care, municipal and the business arenas to manage what has, at times, felt unmanageable-and yet, we persevered. 

While we aren’t quite through this pandemic, the light at the end of the tunnel is brighter than ever. As of this week, over 110,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been received in our county. Nearly two-thirds of our residents over age 70 are fully vaccinated, and roughly 20% of our county residents have also received at least one dose of the highly effective vaccines. We’re working with our community partners to ensure that vaccines are getting to those that have traditionally faced barriers to health services. We have every reason to believe that we will continue to head toward that light ahead of us. 

As we move forward, I’m asking all Larimer County residents to get vaccinated when it’s their turn and to please remain diligent in practicing basic public health prevention measures like wearing a face covering, social distancing, and avoiding large indoor gatherings. These continue to be critical to slowing the transmission of COVID-19, which will allow our businesses to open at greater capacities and keep our kids at school learning in-person. 

As I reflect on the last year, I am overcome with emotion. I remember acts of hate and acts of love, moments of great violence and moments of great kindness, a country divided and humanity reunited. Above all, I am in awe of the resiliency of our Larimer County community, one that came together under challenging times to do the necessary work to keep each other safe. The sacrifices that Larimer County residents have made throughout the pandemic are immeasurable, and I will be forever grateful. 

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