Expanded testing reveals coronavirus was likely present in Garfield County as early as February | PostIndependent.com
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Expanded testing reveals coronavirus was likely present in Garfield County as early as February

FILE - In this April 3, 2020, file photo, a scientist presents an antibody test to use with a blood sample for the coronavirus at a laboratory of the Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technology (Leibniz IPHT) at the InfectoGnostics research campus in Jena, Germany. While many laboratories and companies are now offering tests, there are still only two main types available. The nasal swab test tells you if you have an active viral infection right now. A separate blood test tells you if you were previously exposed to the virus and fought off the infection.
AP Photo/Jens Meyer, File
Valley View COVID-19 Cumulative Stats 5/21/2020
  • Specimens collected thru Valley View: 1,327
  • Positive results: 49
  • Pending results: 43
  • Patients admitted with COVID-19 since outbreak began: 16
  • Patients discharged: 13
Grand River COVID-19 Cumulative Stats 5/21/2020
  • Specimens collected thru Grand River Health: 827
  • Positive results: 30
  • Pending results: 19
  • Patients admitted with COVID-19 since outbreak began: 2
  • Patients transferred: 2
  • Patients discharged: 0

Grand River Health in Rifle says it’s now confirming what many health officials and the general public suspected for some time since the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in Colorado in early March.

The novel coronavirus and its related respiratory disease COVID-19, which has been declared a global pandemic, was making the rounds in Garfield County at least as early as February.

The latest COVID-19 statistics reported by Garfield County hospitals on Thursday revealed eight new positive test results just since Tuesday from specimens collected by Grand River.

However, none of those new positive cases involved people who are currently showing symptoms, Dr. Kevin Coleman, Grand River’s chief medical officer, said.

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Instead, they involved people who reported to their doctors that they had experienced symptoms in February and early March, and only now are able to be tested to see if they have the antibody.

“Since the state opened up testing to the community, we have had 70 community members take us up on that,” Coleman said Thursday afternoon.

Those patients were referred through their primary care physicians, and had indicated they experienced symptoms at some point early on during the coronavirus outbreak, he said.

“Most of them had symptoms in February or early March, before we had the ability to do broad testing,” Coleman said. “What we’re learning is that this was probably was a lot more prevalent then than we knew at the time.”

Just this week, Colorado opened up its free coronavirus testing to any residents with flu-like symptoms, past or present, plus workers who have frequent contact with others in public settings but are not showing symptoms.

The testing policy change came because the state can now process about 10,000 coronavirus tests daily, but is not using its full capacity, Gov. Jared Polis said on Monday.

Previously, a lack of testing supplies and protective equipment limited testing mostly to people in hospitals and health care workers. People with less serious symptoms were told to isolate at home.

The majority of the most recent tests done via Grand River involved people who are not presently ill, Coleman said. But the results are telling, he said.

“It shows the value of the measures we have taken in Garfield County with social distancing and other public health precautions,” he said.

Coleman said Garfield County Public Health is aware of Grand River’s strategy, and that the data on newly confirmed cases is a result of the stepped-up testing.

“The good news is that we haven’t had a patient under investigation for a new, active case in two weeks,” Coleman said.

As of Thursday, Grand River had collected a cumulative total of 827 specimens since the outbreak began — an increase of 182 since this time last week.

Of those, 30 tests have come back positive and, as of Thursday, 19 were still pending. Grand River has still only hospitalized two patients since March, both of whom were transferred to other hospitals, according to Grand River’s stats.

Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs has reported two new COVID-19 positive results since this time last week, and just one additional case since Tuesday, according to that hospital’s bi-weekly stats.

As of Thursday, Valley View had collected a total of 1,327 specimens since the outbreak began (274 just since May 14), of which 49 have come back positive, with 43 still pending. Valley View has hospitalized 16 patients since the outbreak, but no new admissions since May 5.

Garfield County as a whole has reported 121 confirmed or presumed (via contact with a person who has tested positive) cases of COVID-19, as of the latest Garfield County Public Health data. Two people have died in Garfield County as a result, but none since April 9.

Through Wednesday this week, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment had reported 22,797 cases statewide, resulting in 3,990 hospitalizations, 1,001 deaths directly due to COVID-19, and another 298 deaths of people who tested positive but had other health conditions.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.

jstroud@postindependent.com


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