As Pitkin County sees COVID-19, Garfield County still cautious mode | AspenTimes.com

As Pitkin County sees COVID-19, Garfield County still cautious mode

Thomas Phippen
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
In this photo taken Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020 2020 testing kits are displayed on a worktop in Johannesburg where a workshop was held for delegates from across Africa on laboratory confirmation of COVID-19 in suspected human cases.
AP Photo/Denis Farrell

With the novel coronavirus starting to spread across Colorado, here are some things to know, according to the Colorado Department of Health and Environment:

Symptoms and severity

● Symptoms of respiratory viruses, including the novel coronavirus, include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

● Any of these illnesses can be severe and require hospitalization, but most individuals recover by resting, drinking plenty of liquids, and taking pain and fever-reducing medications.

● If you did not have a high risk of exposure, it is very unlikely you have novel coronavirus. But if you are ill and concerned, contact your health care provider.

Protecting yourself

Here are Protecting yourself from 2019 novel coronavirus and other respiratory viruses.

If you are healthy:

● Continue your normal daily routine. This means you can continue to participate in public gatherings such as work, school, or social activities.

● Get your flu shot, and stay up-to-date on other routine childhood and adult immunizations.

● Wash your hands with soap and water or, at minimum, use an alcohol-based hand rub, which may be less effective than soap and water.

● Avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms.

● Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces such as desks, doorknobs, handrails, etc.

If you are sick:

● Stay home.

● Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your inner elbow shirt sleeve.

● Wash your hands with soap and water or, at minimum, alcohol-based hand rub, which may be less effective than soap and water.

● Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

● Avoid close contact with anyone else with cold or flu-like symptoms.

● Get your flu shot, and stay up-to-date on other routine childhood and adult immunizations.

● Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces such as desks, doorknobs, handrails, etc.

For more information, go to the CDPHE’s website: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/2019-novel-coronavirus

The World Health Organization has designated the outbreak to be a global pandemic, and Gov. Jared Polis declared a state of emergency Tuesday to allow for more aggressive prevention systems.

Despite the likelihood of COVID-19 spread, Garfield County has no confirmed cases yet, giving time for hospitals and health officials time to prepare.

“At this point, we’re anticipating that Garfield County will have a case at some point, and that is why we are doing so much to prepare right now,” said Carrie Godes, spokesperson for Garfield County Department of County Health.

With nine presumptive positive cases currently in Aspen, and several cases discovered in Eagle County, Garfield County seems surrounded.

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Screening for symptoms

Hospitals in both Glenwood Springs and Rifle have implemented aggressive screening measures for everyone walking into their facilities.

“We screen everyone, including employees, as well as visitors, guests and vendors, every day before they come in,” said Annick Pruett, spokesperson for the Grand River Health Department.

The first question is whether the person has lower respiratory symptoms, like coughing or a fever. If the person has those symptoms, there are seven additional questions, which include questions about travel.

If the person meets one of those seven criteria, they are asked not to enter the facility (unless in need of urgent medical care) and told to call providers.

The goal is to keep hospital running for as long as possible.

“All of our services are open, we just certainly want to keep our community as safe as possible to limit the transmission of the virus, as well as our staff members,” Pruett said.

Flattening the curve

Valley View Hospital has similar screening measures, and chief medical officer David Brooks said during a remote town hall Tuesday that everything they are doing is to try to keep the hospital working for patients.

“We’re really trying to flatten the curve, because if we get 20 really sick patients immediately, it puts us over the capacity to care for them. If we can take those 20 patients and spread it out over two months, 10 and 10, we can effectively care for them,” Brooks said.

One way that would help hospitals if the coronavirus spreads is for people with mild symptoms that don’t need immediate treatment to stay home, Brooks said.

“At this point, our recommendation … is for those asymptomatic and mild symptoms to stay at home, self isolate, and get better,” Brooks said. “Because the majority of people who get sick with this coronavirus, 80 percent will be asymptomatic, or have mild symptoms,” he said.

The testing is currently being done in Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment labs, and the state can only complete about 160 per day.

Many places in the state are looking into other options, like drive-through testing facilities, but for now, increase of testing measures isn’t a priority for Valley View.

“I know that that’s a little bit of a source of frustration for some people, because they want to know if they have it or if they’ve been exposed,” Dawn Scocul, chief nursing officer for Valley View, said during the town hall Tuesday.

Testing also is limited to certain criteria in Colorado: Those who have fever and respiratory symptoms, and have traveled to China, Japan, Iran, Italy, South Korea, or places in Washington or California within 14 days of symptoms.

Exposure to confirmed COVID-19 patients, or severe respiratory ailments, like pneumonia, with no medical explanation, also could be possible cases.

Events and elderly risk

Grand River has severely cut back on visitation to patients in the hospital.

“We have very restricted access to in-patient unit. Basically, if there’s a minor, the parents are allowed to visit, and if there is an older person, just their immediate family is allowed in,” Pruett said.

If someone is nearing the end of life, there is greater flexibility, and pastors or priests will be allowed, Pruett said.

At Grand River’s nursing home, social events and visits also have been severely restricted.

“No visitors and no outside events, no large gatherings until further notice,” Pruett said.

“Of course, if a family member is near the end of life, we make some concessions,” she added.

County health officials say that for events, organizers should consider whether an event could be postponed, but haven’t advised widespread cancellations yet.

“There could be a potential time when we would have so much community spread that public health would have to declare something,” Godes said, but those conditions have not yet been met.

As a town that depends on tourism, the coronavirus also could impact the economy if travel drops off significantly, but that doesn’t seem to have happened.

Lisa Langer, promotion director for Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, said she hasn’t heard tourism companies report an unseasonal dip in visitors.

“The only thing I have heard is that a couple of international groups that were coming have canceled,” Langer said.

On the whole, Langer expects the next few weeks of spring break to be very strong in terms of tourism.

“We are all going strong here, as far as I’m concerned. No need to fear,” she added.

During his emergency declaration Tuesday, Polis made a point to say Colorado is still open for business and tourism.

tphippen@postindependent.com


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