Following Colorado COVID-19 cases, Garfield County urges preparation, not panic | PostIndependent.com
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Following Colorado COVID-19 cases, Garfield County urges preparation, not panic

A temporary tent has been set up outside of Valley View Hospital Emergency Room for precautions in case of an influx of patients.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

After the first two confirmed cases of coronavirus in Colorado, including the first in the state less than 100 miles away, Garfield County health officials are clear-eyed about the likelihood of the outbreak to spread.

“It would be naïve to think it wouldn’t come here, but we can take every precaution that we know right now to keep it from spreading,” said Yvonne Long, Garfield County public health director.

On Friday evening, health officials announced another positive case in Eagle County, the eighth positive case in the state.

Organizations across Garfield County are taking precautionary steps to be prepared for further developments.

‘A SAFE PLACE OF CARE’

At Valley View Hospital, nurses ask everyone coming in if they have flu-like symptoms, coughing or fever, and if they’ve traveled to Summit County or anywhere else with confirmed coronavirus cases.

The hospital has set up a screening outside the emergency room to examine anyone who has both symptoms and has traveled.

No one has been tested for coronavirus at Valley View, and the screening procedure is meant “to maintain the hospital as a safe place of care,” hospital spokesperson Stacey Gavrell said.

But if someone is concerned about their symptoms and has traveled recently, health officials ask them to call their provider instead of coming to the emergency room.

COMMUNITY PRECAUTIONS

The community has the power to help control the outbreak, Long said, by taking appropriate precautions.

Those precautions, similar to recommendations to guard against the flu each year, have been echoed by every level of health officials: Stay home if sick, wash hands as often as possible, cough and sneeze into the crook of the elbow, throw out used tissues, and keep the home clean.

Stockpiling hand sanitizer and disinfectants are unhelpful given the nationwide shortages, but bleach and water make a good disinfectant.

“A little capful of bleach in a gallon of water is just as effective,” Long said.

To test for COVID-19, Valley View will collect samples from patients and send to Denver for testing, Gavrell said.

Those who have traveled abroad, or come in contact with someone infected with coronavirus, and is exhibiting symptoms, will likely be tested.

But doctors will rule out the flu, asthma and other respiratory ailments before testing, Long said.

Long suggested that if someone has traveled recently to a country with a known outbreak, that they contact public health upon returning to the county.

“We will walk you through whether or not we think you should self-quarantine at home for 14 days,” Long said.

The Roaring Fork School District said in a message to parents that they are maintaining their extensive flu-season daily cleaning practices, and have organized a task force to monitor developments in the spread of the disease.

They recommend that healthy students attend as normal with added hygiene practices, and ask that those who are sick remain home.

Renew Roaring Fork, a senior housing facility in Glenwood Springs, said they are closely monitoring state, federal and local authorities and following guidelines.

“Right now, it’s business as usual,” said Farron Bernart, vice president of operations for Renew.

But Renew is maintaining precautions, since the virus could be more severe for the elderly, and has facemasks available for those with flu-like symptoms, which they have offered throughout the flu season.

With some squeeze already in the availability of disinfectants and soaps — many store shelves in Garfield County are empty or near-empty of spray disinfectant, hand sanitizer and more — Renew is also stocking supplies for at least a month in advance.

RFTA is continuing with regularly scheduled transit busses, and following public health guidance.

“RFTA staff are working to ensure a reliable process for disinfecting buses and transit facilities daily,” the organization said on its website.

To reach Garfield County Public Health Department in Glenwood Springs, call 970-945-6614 extension 2037. To contact the health department in Rifle, call 970-625-5200 extension 8107.

COVID-19 FACTS

Coronavirus spreads from surface to surface, or from close contact from someone who is infected and showing symptoms, Long said.

Most of the cases in Colorado are presumptive cases since their test results still have to be confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Coronavirus spreads from surface to surface, or from close contact from someone who is infected and showing symptoms, Long said.

Coronavirus likely leapt from animals to humans in central China, according to the CDC, before spreading to from person to person late in 2019.

The disease attacks the respiratory system, and causes symptoms similar to the flu, including coughing, fever, and shortness of breath.

As with most viruses, the most susceptible are the elderly, and people with asthma or other chronic illnesses.

tphippen@postindependent.com


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