Pitkin County can’t gauge coronavirus severity without testing

Pitkin County’s decision to suspend all COVID-19 testing unless a person is exhibiting symptoms severe enough to require hospitalization is reckless and irresponsible. Pitkin County’s approach directly contradicts the recommendations of CDC, which recommends testing for persons who, within 14 days of symptom onset have had close contact with a “suspected or laboratory confirmed COVID-19 patient, or who have a history of travel from affected geographic areas within 14 days of their symptom onset.”

Right now, many in our community have likely had contact with a “suspected” person with COVID-19, and it appears that we could be living in an “affected geographic area,” as well, except that our own COVID-19 statistics are being distorted because of a refusal to test symptomatic individuals, unless they require hospitalization. Without a confirmed positive COVID-19 test, the likelihood of a person with mild symptoms self-isolating for 14 days is pretty remote. Instead, they will be out and about in our community infecting countless others, including tourists who will then be infecting others during their subsequent travels and then back in their home communities.

We have tourists who are making travel decisions based on reported COVID-19 statistics. While accurate COVID-19 statistics are likely to deter tourists in the short run, given Aspen’s very limited health care resources for serious infectious disease, it would seem that the responsible course of action would be to offer greater access to testing, as means to identify and isolate infected persons and avoid further spread of the virus.

Denise Malcolm