Valley View Hospital ‘very ready’ to treat COVID-19 patients, urges vigilance in face of recent uptick

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
A Valley View Hospital worker does intake with a drive-up client as part of the hospital's COVID-19 protocol.
Valley View Hospital/Courtesy Photo

Valley View Hospital is “very safe and very ready” to deal with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the hospital’s chief medical officer said in a report to the Garfield County commissioners on Monday.

“I do want to emphasize that we are seeing more and more cases, especially since late June and early July,” Dr. David Brooks said via video conference during the commissioners’ weekly public health update.

That includes more patients being admitted with COVID-19, including an uptick in pregnant women who are coming in with the virus, and even a newborn who was diagnosed within the first day of birth, Brooks said.

“There is a vaccine coming, and that will be effective (in preventing disease spread),” Brooks said. In the meantime, “We all have to do what we need to do now to slow this increase in new cases.”

Brooks was invited by Garfield County Public Health Director Yvonne Long to inform the commissioners on a key aspect in determining whether the county is successful in reversing its recent upward trend in newly confirmed COVID-19 cases — hospitalizations.

As of Monday, the county was on the right track in at least two of four major statistical categories that determine a county’s level of risk for spread of the potentially deadly virus. Still, the county remains in the highest-risk category, as determined by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

Long said county health officials from Garfield, Eagle and Pitkin counties were to confer with the CDPHE Monday afternoon to review the situation in the tri-county region and discuss next steps.

The good news for Garfield County is that its most-recent two-week onset of new cases — 52 between July 20 and Aug. 2 — is less than a third of what the county saw in the prior two-week period.

A total of 183 new onset cases were reported between July 6–19, based on when a person reported they first experienced symptoms, according to the county’s COVID-19 statistics webpage, which is updated daily.

Also trending down is the county’s case rate per 100,000 people, which as of Monday morning stood at 86.6 — down from more than 110 per 100,000 in late July.

“That’s a pretty big positive for us,” Long said.

Still of major concern, though, are the county’s test positivity rate of more than 10% and, to some degree, hospitalizations.

Valley View, which takes in patients from a broader region besides just Garfield County, saw 24 new hospitalizations during July, compared to 10 in June, according to hospital statistics released twice weekly.

Grand River Hospital in Rifle saw six new COVID-19 hospitalizations last month, after having just two between March and June.

“I want to emphasize that Valley View Hospital is in good shape at this time,” Dr. Brooks said during the Monday morning commissioners meeting. “As a hospital, we are fully operational … we are very safe for all kinds of care, and we are very ready for this pandemic.”

Some hospital staff members have been infected with the virus, “but not in the facility,” he said. Those cases were contracted out in the community, he said.

“We are also better prepared to deal with this than we were three or four months ago, with a greater ability to test,” Brooks said.

In more urgent, higher-priority cases, a result can be obtained in one or two days, he said. However, in an effort to maintain testing supplies, only those who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 are being tested, he added.

On the treatment front, “we are applying the medications that work,” Brooks said.

Responding to a question from one member of the public who commented during the Monday meeting and from Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, Brooks said that does not include hydroxychloroquine, at least from the hospital’s point of view.

Anecdotally, hydroxychloroquine, a medicaation used to treat malaria, has been said to ease the symptoms of COVID-19. It has been touted by President Trump as a possible treatment, but its use has been advised against by the CDC and world health professionals.

“We want those decisions to be between you and your provider,” Brooks said. “As an institution, we strive to follow the science- and evidence-based guidelines.”

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