Pitkin County releases preliminary self-reported symptom results
On Monday evening, Pitkin County Public Health’s symptom tracker results were made available to the public on the department website.
The tracker, which relies on self-reporting of COVID-19-related symptoms by county residents through an online survey, was launched March 24 in an effort to see how coronavirus disease symptoms may be moving through the community. Another survey aimed at gauging the mental health of the county community while social distancing and quarantining also was rolled out on the same day.
As of 6 p.m. Monday, 176 symptomatic county residents had participated in the survey over the past week, according to the tracker data. That’s about 1% of the county population.
A large number of the survey participants reported their COVID-19-related symptoms first began between March 11 and March 18, but the onset of symptoms has seemed to slow since then, based on the preliminary tracker results. (Through Sunday there have been 29 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Pitkin County, according to state data.)
March 18 is the date Pitkin County restricted group and event size to less than 10 people, signaling to Karen Koenemann, county public health director, that the coronavirus spread may be slowing and social distancing may be working.
“The good news is the preliminary results show the rate of spread is slowing down. We attribute that to the aggressive public health orders and actions taken by the community to isolate themselves,” Koenemann said in a news release Monday.
While Pitkin County officials say the symptom tracker — which is still open to residents for self-reporting — can help identify trend lines and is a useful tool, county officials know it doesn’t tell the whole story of community spread of the coronavirus.
That’s why the Pitkin County Incident Management Team overseeing the local coronavirus response is continuing to focus on securing COVID-19 tests for a more accurate, epidemiological picture of the virus’ public health impact on Aspen and Pitkin County.
“The goal was to have tests here yesterday,” Bill Linn, spokesperson for the incident management team and assistant Aspen police chief, said relatively speaking on Monday.
On the same day the county issued its stay-at-home public health order March 23, officials also began to make plans to bring community-wide testing for coronavirus to Aspen and Pitkin County, putting in an order for at least 1,000 tests from Englewood-based Aytu Bioscience Inc.
As previously reported, the test requires a finger prick of blood sample and can deliver results in two to 10 minutes at the same location where the test is administered.
But as of Monday evening, a week later, Linn said the county has no clear date for when the tests will arrive. And although Linn acknowledged that other private companies have other test types on the market, the county isn’t interested in ordering just any COVID-19 test.
“I know a lot of people out there are saying ‘hurry up and get testing,’ but we want to ensure our testing is of epidemiological value and is accurate enough,” Linn said. “We don’t want to tell someone they’re healthy and don’t have the virus and then for that not be true.”
To ensure the county’s community-wide testing program will be safe for medical professionals to conduct, and is accurate, efficient and effective in providing the data needed to help understand the local spread of COVID-19, Linn said a group of local physicians are researching and evaluating all of the test options on the market.
As of Monday, Linn said the Aytu Bioscience Inc. tests were the county’s “best lead so far,” but that officials are “discussing and researching daily” to help get effective tests here as soon as possible.
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Aspen City Council is considering yet again to ask voters whether to repurpose Wheeler real estate transfer tax for another community use. The idea has been discussed dozens of times over the years by various councils.