Garfield County officials stress preparation, not panic as COVID-19 reaches U.S.
As COVID-19 dominates headlines across the globe, officials in Garfield County continue to stress a message of “caution over chaos.”
“I think the fear of the unknown is what’s driving the tension,” said Dr. David Brooks, Valley View Hospital chief medical officer. “In the United States, as of today, there are far more deaths from influenza than COVID-19.”
Valley View Hospital has created an internal task force comprised of physicians, nurses, infection preventionists, and others, which meets twice a week to discuss COVID-19.
“We’re remaining up-to-date on the latest information from the (Centers for Disease Control) and the health department so that we can change rapidly should we need to,” Brooks said.
According to the CDC, there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Colorado as of Monday afternoon.
Valley View has asked patients who have traveled outside of the U.S. within the last 14 days or have been exposed to COVID-19 and are currently exhibiting signs of fever, cough and congestion to call before entering any of the hospital’s facilities.
The precautionary measure is not based on fear but rather is in place to allow hospital personnel the ability to deliver personal protective equipment to the patient before admitting them.
“So that when we bring them into the facility we’ve negated any contamination amongst our employees or other patients,” Brooks said. “They would be quarantined initially in the hospital under a negative pressure room and anybody entering or exiting the room would wear personal protective equipment.”
Brooks said Valley View Hospital would continue to coordinate with local agencies and health officials concerning COVID-19.
Grand River Health Infection Preventionist Tina Moon stressed the importance of basic hygiene practices like hand washing and covering coughs.
“Definitely, in any type of situation like this there is a lot of misinformation,” Moon said. “We want people to beware but not to panic.”
According to Garfield County Public Health Director Yvonne Long, the county has had plans in place for pandemic flu or a novel virus outbreak such as COVID-19 for well over a decade.
Long said the county faced similar situations in 2009 while dealing with the H1N1 influenza virus.
“It’s not a lot different than what we’ve done in the past,” Long said. “The community has the power to help us control this and that is through personal awareness.”
Long encouraged residents to stay informed by visiting the county’s website, garfield-county.com, as well as the state’s public health webpage, colorado.gov/cdphe
“Our primary, particular purpose at this point is to inform, educate and prevent,” Long said.
Glenwood Springs City Manager Debra Figueroa said the city was working with Garfield County Public Health, Roaring Fork School District, neighboring municipalities and Valley View Hospital to coordinate planning efforts around the novel coronavirus disease outbreak.
“Although the risk to the general public remains low at this time, we encourage individuals to take the same precautions against COVID-19 as they would against the flu each year,” Figueroa said.
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Garfield County Public Health does not have immediate plans to run an off-site community drive-through COVID-19 vaccination clinic like the one now operating in Pitkin County.