Garfield County’s first to test positive for COVID-19 shares her story

This undated file photo provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows CDC's laboratory test kit for the new coronavirus.

A 33-year-old Glenwood Springs woman who was advised Saturday that she had tested positive for COVID-19 — Garfield County’s first confirmed case in the global pandemic — appears to have followed the textbook for those who think they may be infected with the rapidly spreading coronavirus.

The woman agreed to an interview with the Post Independent, but did not want her name used as some of her co-workers and other acquaintances were still being contacted by county health officials to see if they may have been exposed.

The woman said she told Garfield County Public Health that she was at a concert by a local band at an Aspen bar on Feb. 28 when she met several of the Australian tourists who later tested presumptive positive for the virus.

“I started to feel sick on March 8, with a high fever, a bad cough and shortness of breath,” she said, describing the most common symptoms people are advised to be wary of.

She said her temperature spiked that first day to 102.6. She said she does suffer from mild asthma, but the respiratory symptoms were definitely worrisome.

She said there were a lot of people from out of town at the Aspen venue that night, and a lot of close contact as people were trying to talk to each other over the band.

“I read the article Tuesday morning (March 10) about the Australians,” she said, adding she immediately took action to try to get tested for the coronavirus.

She experienced a bit of a run-around, getting passed between her own doctor, the state health department, the Valley View Hospital ER and county health. Then, after some intervention by a friend, she said she got a call from the chief medical officer at Valley View who advised her to go to the ER. She was tested that afternoon.

It wasn’t until Saturday afternoon that she was advised of the presumptive positive test for COVID-19, the disease caused by the strain of coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China late last year.

Part of the reason for the delay, she said, is that they initially test for hundreds of other viruses. If those come back negative, they then test for the coronavirus.

“It’s really hard to wait five days, especially when you’re sick,” she said, adding she’s feeling much better now.

She continues to self-quarantine at her home outside Glenwood Springs, as she did the moment she got home from the hospital last Tuesday.

“I work in a small business, so the hardest thing is to take time off for a little coughing,” she said. “Everyone was really receptive and understanding. I know it can be really hard to call off of work, but you just have to do it.”

Garfield County Public Health issued a press release at 4:41 p.m. Saturday, within about a half hour of the test results being reported by the state, advising that the county had its first case.

“In this case, the person self-quarantined and the case investigation began (Saturday) to determine if anyone else may have been exposed,” Garfield County spokesperson Renelle Lott said. “Public Health will contact any individuals who might have been in contact with this individual, and if the person was in any larger event locations or public venues, Public Health will notify the community within a short time period after interviewing her.”

Lott added that there are likely other cases in Garfield County for which tests have been sent to labs.

“Public Health does not get notified when a provider sends off a test. We are only notified if tests comes back positive,” she said. “We can’t share any other information on this case, and are just beginning the Public Health investigation on it.”

The woman who tested positive said her 6-year-old son has been with his dad, from whom she is divorced. They, along with another woman and her child were also advised to go into quarantine.

A friend of the woman who also was at the Aspen night club that night became sick the day before she did. He also was advised to self-quarantine, but she did not believe he had gotten tested for the coronavirus.

“This quarantine thing is not fun,” she added. “I made the mistake of starting to read Stephen King’s ‘The Stand,’ and that didn’t really help. I started reading it and I was like, ‘why am I doing this to myself.’”

On a lighter note, she said friends have been keeping in touch and providing some food to help her through.

“They drop food on the front porch and then run away,” she said.

The Garfield County case remains presumptive positive, which means test results haven’t been confirmed yet by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Earlier in the day Saturday, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said there were 24 new confirmed cases. That was before the one in Garfield County was reported, and would bring the total number of confirmed cases (presumptive) in the state to 102.

The newest cases were in various counties across the state, including the first resident of Pitkin County to test positive after several Australian visitors to Aspen had tested presumptive positive earlier in the week.

The others were from Denver (5), Eagle (4), Arapahoe (3), Gunnison and Jefferson (2 each), and one each in El Paso, Mesa and Weld counties. Another involved someone from out of state who was in Denver.

Cases involved 23 residents and one visitor, 13 male and 11 female ranging in age from their 20s to 80s, according to the earlier release.

To date, only one COVID-19 related death has occurred in Colorado, involving a woman in her 80s from El Paso County.

The test results included 20 from the state lab and four from private testing facilities that are receiving samples from health care providers.

The state confirmed it has completed test results on approximately 800 people in Colorado since testing started on Feb. 28.

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