Pitkin County virus cases rise, but remain ‘comfortable’ | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County virus cases rise, but remain ‘comfortable’

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S. According to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, a wide share of Americans are at least moderately confident in U.S. health officials’ ability to handle emerging viruses, and more express concern about catching the flu than catching the new coronavirus. (NIAID-RML via AP)

While COVID-19 cases in Aspen and Pitkin County are increasing, they remain within acceptable and “comfortable” ranges, public health officials said Thursday.

The county has seen seven positive COVID-19 cases in the past week and 15 in the past two weeks as of Wednesday, said Charlie Spickert, an epidemiologist working with Pitkin County.

In addition, Aspen Valley Hospital is “still comfortable” with more than 50% hospital bed capacity available and just one positive COVID-19 patient hospitalized, said Dr. Kimberly Levin, the county’s medical officer and a physician at AVH. The patient was not in the hospital’s intensive care unit, she said.

Also, two AVH employees were out sick with COVID-19-like symptoms as of Thursday, Levin said.

Finally, officials are closely watching the number of cases in neighboring Garfield and Eagle counties, which are also rising though not in concerning numbers yet, Spickert said.

Of the 15 cases in the past two weeks, three were imported to Pitkin County by visitors from other counties, while a fourth came from out of state, he said. Two others grew from known outbreaks in adjacent counties, another involved a person who has continued to test positive for COVID-19 since March and a third was a Pitkin County resident exposed elsewhere who returned home, Spickert said.

Three more cases were traced to workplaces in Pitkin County, while the final four “may involve community transmission,” he said. Public health officials were not sure Thursday how those four people were infected and were continuing to investigate the cases, Spickert said.

If Pitkin County experiences 18 new infections in a week, a variance granted by the state allowing particular businesses and services to open could be rescinded.

The positive numbers don’t exactly jibe with numbers released on the county’s dashboard tracker located on the public health website. Spickert and Kurt Dahl, head of the count’s Environmental Health Department, said the discrepancy involves constantly changing numbers that sometimes require cases related to neighboring counties to be subtracted.

The county’s contact tracing team is still able to keep up with the workload, though it is coming close to reaching its capability, Dahl said.

COVID-19 cases in Colorado also are increasing and may reflect Memorial Day celebrations, Spickert said. Case numbers related to mass demonstrations for racial justice in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis should bubble to the surface in the next week or so, he said.

Public health officials continue to urge people to to cut pre-coronavirus social interactions by 65%. They also want residents and visitors to continue to wash their hands frequently, wear facemasks in public, stay home if sick and immediately get tested at AVH if they experience COVID-19 symptoms.

Those actions are very effective in limiting the spread of the virus, Levin said.


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