Garfield coroner can now field test for COVID-19 in cases of unattended deaths in the county |

Garfield coroner can now field test for COVID-19 in cases of unattended deaths in the county

Garfield County Coroner Robert Glassmire
Valley View COVID-19 Cumulative Stats 4/21/2020
  • Specimens collected thru Valley View: 351
  • Positive results: 36
  • Pending results: 5
  • Patients admitted with COVID-19 since outbreak began: 15
  • Patients admitted with COVID-19 and discharged: 12
Grand River COVID-19 Cumulative Stats 4/21/2020
  • Specimens collected thru Grand River Health: 333
  • Positive results: 15
  • Pending results: 11
  • Patients admitted with COVID-19 since outbreak began: 2
  • Patients admitted with COVID-19 and transferred: 1
  • Patients discharged: 0

The Garfield County Coroner’s Office is now better able to determine if any unattended or otherwise curious deaths in the county are the result of COVID-19.

Coroner Robert Glassmire said that, as of Monday, his office has a limited ability to test for COVID-19 in the field. That’s done by using a special nasopharyngeal (NP) swab and sending the specimen to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment lab.  

“Prior to this, we would have had to transport the decedent to the coroner’s office contract pathologist in Grand Junction,” Glassmire said.

Questions around unattended deaths in homes, and the prospect that they could have been the result of undiagnosed COVID-19, has been raised in more populated areas of the U.S. as the coronavirus has spread.

In Garfield County, there have been 15 unattended deaths since March 1. However, in all but one of those cases Glassmire said the decedents were determined to have been low-risk for COVID-19, the potentially fatal disease that’s caused by the novel coronavirus.  

“The one patient, who was elderly, was diagnosed with a terminal disease, prescribed hospice and had some symptoms of COVID-19,” Glassmire said. “This decedent was not tested and custody of the body was released directly to the funeral home.”

In any case where the coroner’s office responds to a place of death, a determination is made whether that person was at low or higher risk for COVID-19, Glassmire said. 

“This is based on the decedent’s symptoms prior to death, family symptoms or known exposures to COVID-19,” he said. “Many factors might determine if a decedent gets tested.

“In general, if they are higher risk, we will perform testing. If they are lower risk, we will not perform testing.” 

Since the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Garfield County on March 14, the county has had two confirmed deaths related to the disease, which has been declared a global pandemic.

As of the latest statistics released by the CDPHE Tuesday afternoon, there had been 71 confirmed cases in Garfield County through April 20 — same as the previous day’s report. 

Statewide, the number rose from 10,106 cases to 10,447, and the number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths was 486, up from 449 the prior day.

Meanwhile, Garfield County hospitals continue to test for COVID-19, but the number of patients needing hospitalization has not increased dramatically.

As of Tuesday, Grand River Hospital in Rifle reported one additional patient needing treatment from last week. The hospital has now admitted two patients since the outbreak began, one of whom was transferred to another hospital.

Of the 333 coronavirus tests administered to patients at Grand River, 15 have come back positive and 11 were still pending.

“Patient volumes at Grand River Health remain manageable,” the hospital said in its twice-weekly statement. “The hospital is able to care for positive COVID-19 patients, should they require this level of care.”

Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs, as of Tuesday, had not seen an increase in the number of COVID-19 patients treated since last Thursday, holding at 15. Of those, 12 have been discharged.

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