Valley View: hospital in good shape on COVID-19 front, but urges vigilance in face of recent uptick
Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs is “very safe and very ready” to deal with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the hospital’s chief medical officer said in a report to the Garfield County commissioners on Monday.
“I do want to emphasize that we are seeing more and more cases, especially since late June and early July,” Dr. David Brooks said via video conference during the commissioners’ weekly public health update.
That includes more patients being admitted with COVID-19, including an uptick in pregnant women who are coming in with the virus, and even a newborn who was diagnosed within the first day of birth, Brooks said.
“There is a vaccine coming, and that will be effective (in preventing disease spread),” Brooks said. In the meantime, “We all have to do what we need to do now to slow this increase in new cases.”
Brooks was invited by Garfield County Public Health Director Yvonne Long to inform the commissioners on a key aspect in determining whether the county is successful in reversing its recent upward trend in newly confirmed COVID-19 cases — hospitalizations.
As of Tuesday, the county remained on the right track in at least two of four major statistical categories that determine the level of risk for spread of the potentially deadly virus, from which four Garfield County residents have died.
Both Garfield and Eagle counties remain in the highest-risk category, as determined by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).
Long said county health officials from Garfield, Eagle and Pitkin counties were to confer with the CDPHE Monday to review the situation in the tri-county region and discuss next steps. No determinations have been made regarding the county’s May 23 variance that allows area businesses to open more fully than state public health orders currently allow.
The good news for Garfield County is that its most-recent two-week onset of new cases — 42 between July 21 and Aug. 3 — is less than a third of what the county saw in the prior two-week period.
A total of 180 new onset cases were reported between July 7–20, based on when a person reported they first experienced symptoms, according to the county’s COVID-19 statistics webpage, which is updated daily.
Also trending down is the county’s case rate per 100,000 people, which as of Tuesday stood at 69.9 — down 16 percentage points from Monday and significantly less than a rate 110 per 100,000 reported in late July.
“That’s a pretty big positive for us,” Long said.
Still of major concern, though, is the county’s test positivity rate of 10.7% (the state wants to see that at 5% or less) and, to some degree, hospitalizations.
Valley View, which takes in patients from a broader region besides just Garfield County, saw 24 new hospitalizations and 22 discharges during July, and already has two new hospitalizations during the first week of August.
The hospital reported 10 hospitalizations in June and five discharges, according to hospital statistics released twice weekly.
Grand River Hospital in Rifle saw six new COVID-19 hospitalizations last month, after having just two between March and June.
“I want to emphasize that Valley View Hospital is in good shape at this time,” Dr. Brooks said during the Monday morning commissioners meeting. “As a hospital, we are fully operational … we are very safe for all kinds of care, and we are very ready for this pandemic.”
Some hospital staff members have been infected with the virus, “but not in the facility,” he said. Those cases were contracted out in the community, he said.
“We are also better prepared to deal with this than we were three or four months ago, with a greater ability to test,” Brooks said.
In more urgent, higher-priority cases, a result can be obtained in one or two days, he said. However, in an effort to maintain testing supplies, only those who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 are being tested, he added.
On the treatment front, “we are applying the medications that work,” Brooks said.
Responding to a question from one member of the public who commented during the Monday meeting and from Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, Brooks said that does not include hydroxychloroquine, at least per the hospital’s advice.
Anecdotally, hydroxychloroquine, a medication used to treat malaria, has been said to ease the symptoms of COVID-19. It has been touted by President Trump as a possible treatment, but its use has been advised against by the CDC and world health professionals as being unproven with possible risky side effects.
“We want those decisions to be between you and your provider,” Brooks said, adding there’s nothing to prevent a doctor from prescribing hydroxychloroquine with patient consent. However, “As an institution, we strive to follow the science- and evidence-based guidelines.”
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A mobile Covid-19 testing van could soon be boosting testing capabilities in western Garfield County.