Eagle County investigates cluster of 11 positive COVID-19 cases in Basalt area
Eagle County public health officials are investigating a cluster of 11 positive COVID-19 cases among teenagers in the Roaring Fork Valley but have been hampered by lack of cooperation in some cases.
“Disease investigators have noted an unwillingness among some infected individuals and families to isolate at home and share information about events where other people would have been exposed,” Eagle County said in a statement Tuesday. “Officials note that the investigation is ongoing and it is possible more cases will emerge in coming days.”
The cluster of cases is “mostly” among people ages 16 to 18, the county said. The initial spread “was associated with private social gatherings, resulting in 11 confirmed cases among young people in the Roaring Fork Valley.”
County communications director Kris Widlak clarified that it is believed the disease was spread when friends were getting together rather than at a specific type of party or gathering.
The Eagle County Public Health Department has been cautious up until Tuesday about identifying when cases arise specifically in the Roaring Fork Valley. El Jebel and most of Basalt are located in Eagle County. However, the information was released because the coronavirus is a community problem and requires community cooperation to limit its spread, Widlak said.
The investigation isn’t an effort to stigmatize anyone, Widlak said. It’s an effort to identify people potentially exposed.
Health department officials declined to say how many of the 11 teenagers who tested positive are being cooperative and how many are refusing to cooperate.
“It’s just been challenging getting a list of people” who the teenagers have been in contact with over the past 14 days, Widlak said.
The cluster spurred Eagle County Public Health and Environment to elevate its performance indicator from “comfortable” to “cautious” due to the number of new cases and the potential for spread.
Widlak told The Aspen Times on Monday that the county had 26 new confirmed cases in the past five days.
Heath Harmon, the public health director said the cluster emphasizes the continued need for 6 feet of physical distancing, washing hands often, using a face cover in public, staying at home when sick and getting tested immediately if there are symptoms.
“This is not about personal risk tolerance, this is about making decisions that help protect the community,” Harmon said in a statement. “We need to coexist with this virus until a vaccine is available and do so in a way that helps limit its spread.”
The county doesn’t identify specific individuals who test positive and it doesn’t identify businesses where people who tested positive work.
While the cases in this latest cluster involve residents of Eagle County, it could easily spread into Garfield and Pitkin counties because of the blurred county lines and social interactions crossing boundaries. The investigation is a coordinated effort among the three counties, Eagle County said. The disease control measures are identical among the three counties. They include:
Any person confirmed to have COVID-19 should isolate at home for 10 days from the time the symptoms began.
All close contacts of a known COVID-19 case should self-quarantine at home for 14 days from the last date of exposure. Close contacts are persons that live in the same household, intimate partners, and anyone that has spent more than 15 minutes closer than 6 feet with a confirmed case.
Close contacts of known cases are significantly at higher risk of becoming infected than people that had limited contact with a case. Quarantine helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 that can occur before a person develops symptoms or if they are infected with the virus and are asymptomatic.
Close contacts that are symptomatic should contact their medical provider and seek testing immediately.
Close contacts that are asymptomatic should wait five to seven days from the last date of exposure to seek testing. Testing right after an exposure may be too early in the incubation period to detect the virus.
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