Health – The Pagosa Springs SUN The most trusted source for news and information about Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Thu, 20 Aug 2020 18:28:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Health – The Pagosa Springs SUN 32 32 First human case of West Nile virus reported in Colorado this year Sat, 22 Aug 2020 11:00:51 +0000 Colorado Department of Public
Health and Environment

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) is reporting the first human case of West Nile virus in Colorado this year. 

The case, reported to CDPHE on Aug. 12, presented in a person who resides in Delta County. West Nile virus is most commonly spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Weekly mosquito testing for West Nile virus began statewide in June. Counties or municipalities trap adult mosquitoes and labs test them, providing an estimate of the number that are infected. The results help pinpoint the risk to humans in the area. 

This year, West Nile virus-positive mosquitoes have been found in Larimer, Delta and Weld counties. Not all counties and municipalities test mosquitoes, so it’s important for all Coloradans to take steps to protect themselves throughout the summer.

Most human West Nile virus cases are reported in August and September. In 2019, Colorado had 122 reported human cases of West Nile virus, including eight deaths.

Most people infected with West Nile virus don’t have symptoms. About 20 percent of infected people will have flu-like symptoms and fewer than 1 percent develop a serious, potentially deadly illness. People over age 60 and those with certain medical conditions are at greater risk of serious illness. See a health care provider if you develop severe headaches or confusion.

To protect yourself

• Use insect repellents when you go outdoors. Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535 and some oil of lemon eucalyptus, and para-menthane-diol products provide the best protection. Follow label instructions.

• Limit outdoor activities at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus are most active.

• Wear protective clothing (long pants, long-sleeved shirts and socks) in areas where mosquitoes are active. Spray clothes with insect repellent for extra protection.

To mosquito-proof your home

• Drain standing water around your house often. Empty water from tires, cans, flowerpots, clogged gutters, rain barrels, birdbaths, toys and puddles.

• Install or repair screens on windows and doors.

For more information, visit the department’s West Nile virus Web page: 

COVID-19 update: Seven new cases reported in single day Thu, 23 Jul 2020 10:59:46 +0000 By Randi Pierce
Staff Writer

As of noon Wednesday, Archuleta County had 25 total positive cases of COVID-19 among residents, with eight cases reported as recovered by San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH).

Archuleta County had eight cases from April 17 to June 29, with cases tripling since. Seven new cases were posted on SJBPH’s data dashboard for Archuleta County Wednesday, bringing the count to 25 cases among residents.

From Tuesday to Wednesday, SJBPH reported 19 new total cases on its dashboard between both counties it serves: six for Archuleta County, 11 for La Plata County, and a new nonresident positive in each Archuleta and La Plata counties.

Wednesday’s update revealed 25 nonresidents who have tested positive in Archuleta County, though the website acknowledges that figure may not include all the nonresidents positives tested in Archuleta County.

SJBPH’s figure, according to the agency’s website, “includes cases who were visiting from another country, state or county in Colorado. This will include any cases that are reported to SJBPH and were tracked or investigated by the team. This will not include cases who live in La Plata county but sought medical care in Archuleta.”

Regional cumulative case counts

As of noon on Wednesday, La Plata County was reported as having 179 cases (with two deaths among cases). As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, Conejos County was reported as having 21, Rio Grande County logged 84 (with two deaths), Mineral County had 17 and Hinsdale County was listed as having three.

Neighboring and near Archuleta County to the south, Rio Arriba County, N.M., listed 251 cases (with 44 recovered and one death), and San Juan County, N.M., listed 2,861 cases (with 1,625 recovered and 176 deaths) as of Tuesday afternoon.

The Jicarilla Apache Nation, which largely falls within Rio Arriba County, had announced 177 cases as of 3 p.m. July 21, with 101 recovered and two deaths.

Due to community spread within the Jicarilla Apache Nation, the nation announced that a stay-at-home order will be in effect from 9 p.m. July 26 through 5 a.m. on Aug. 10.

Mask order in effect, last call changed

Following an executive order by Gov. Jared Polis on July 16, Colorado is now under a mandatory mask order.

Per the executive order, anyone in Colorado older than 10 years old must wear a face covering over their nose and mouth when entering or moving within any public indoor space. 

“Wearing a mask is an easy and highly effective way to significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19. The more we wear masks, the safer we will be and the stronger our economy will grow,” Polis said while announcing the executive order. “Unfortunately, this pandemic is far from over, cases are up, and we have to find a way to live sustainably while protecting ourselves and those around us. Masks are the ticket to the Colorado we love and a critical part of supporting Colorado’s economy and prosperity. The best way to support Colorado workers and businesses right now is to wear a mask. I’ve said this from the beginning, and it’s still true today: Together, we will get through this.”

Per the state, “A public indoor space is defined as any enclosed indoor area that is publicly or privately owned, managed or operated to which individuals have access by right or by invitation, expressed or implied, and that is accessible to the public, serves as a place of employment, or is an entity providing services.”

The definition of public indoor space does not mean a person’s residence, hotel room or residential room for students at an educational facility, the state notes.

Individuals 10 years old and younger, and those who cannot medically tolerate a face covering, are exempt from the order. 

On Tuesday, Polis announced another change across the state due to coronavirus: For the next 30 days, the last call for alcohol will be at 10 p.m. instead of 2 a.m.

Exempted activities

According to the state, individuals performing the following activities are also exempt from the requirements of the executive order requiring face coverings while the activity is being performed:

• Individuals who are hearing impaired or otherwise disabled or who are communicating with someone who is hearing impaired or otherwise disabled and where the ability to see the mouth is essential to communication;

• Individuals who are seated at a food service establishment;

• Individuals who are exercising alone or with others from the individual’s household and a face covering would interfere with the activity;

• Individuals who are receiving a personal service where the temporary removal of the face covering is necessary to perform the service;

• Individuals who enter a business or receive services and are asked to temporarily remove a face covering for identification purposes;

• Individuals who are actively engaged in a public safety role such as law enforcement, firefighters, or emergency medical personnel;

• Individuals who are officiating at a religious service; or

• Individuals who are giving a speech for broadcast or an audience.

“To protect workers, customers, and the community, no business serving the public in a Public Indoor Space may provide service to a customer or allow a customer to enter or move within that Public Indoor Space, unless the customer is wearing a face covering,” a press release states.

During the same press conference, Polis noted that the state would take a two-week pause on issuing any new variances to counties, and noted that counties that had previously certified for Protect Our Neighbors could choose to become exempt from the order.

Archuleta County remains under Safer at Home and in the Vast, Great Outdoors. 

What if you don’t wear a mask?

The executive order states, “Any individual who knowingly enters or remains in a Public Indoor Space in violation of the terms of this Executive Order may be subject to civil or criminal penalties, including but not limited to prosecution for trespass.”

According to the state’s website, if you refuse to wear a mask as required in the executive order, you are violating a Colorado law and are subject to civil or criminal penalties.

If you try to enter a store without a mask, you may be prosecuted for trespassing, it notes.

Pagosa Springs Town Manager Andrea Phillips noted in an email to The SUN that the town, including Pagosa Springs Police Department (PSPD), will enforce the order and will be responding to complaints.

Phillips reported that the town is reminding people of the mandate through ads in local media, and on digital message boards at each end of town, and the Pagosa Springs Area Chamber of Commerce is also sharing the messages, as well as the tourism department.

“Per the order, businesses are required to refuse entry to anyone 11 yrs and older not wearing a face covering (with medical exemption considered of course). If the business is not able to get the person to comply with the Governor’s order, and can’t get them to leave, the business owner can file a complaint with PD and request the offender be removed from the business. Our Police Dept can charge them with trespassing,” she explained.

She further clarified that PSPD officers will not be enforcing the wearing of masks within businesses, but will respond to businesses.

“It is the business owner’s responsibility. If their patrons won’t wear it and refuse to leave, then PD can respond to a request for a trespass charge,” she wrote.

Similarly, Archuleta County Sheriff Rich Valdez noted that while mask calls will not be a high priority, his department will respond to trespass and disorderly conduct calls like normal.

“We want people to respect each other’s decision to wear a mask or not wear a mask,” Valdez said, noting that his deputies will respond and provide support, but that enforcing mask-wearing comes with challenges, including his office’s minimal staffing.

Valdez further urged people to think before getting into an altercation over a mask that could take resources away from other emergencies.


Is quarantining negatively affecting our kids? Wed, 22 Jul 2020 11:00:44 +0000 By John Lough
American Counseling Association

Most schools closed in mid-spring. Playgrounds in many areas are taped off. Sports programs from baseball to swim meets are being canceled. The current COVID-19 crisis and its quarantining measures are directly affecting our children every day in a variety of ways.

Many parents worry what the long-term effects may be on our kids. It’s a question for which there aren’t a lot of ready answers, but the consensus from numerous experts is that most kids will be all right.

This is especially true for younger children. While they may now complain when locked down at home that they’re “bored,” it’s probably the same complaint voiced during every summer’s school vacation.

Being bored at times won’t harm a child’s psychological and emotional development, but, rather, it does offer opportunities for parents to help build self-sufficiency. Providing kids with additional ways to express their creativity and enhance learning is one approach, but sometimes simply leaving a child to develop his or her own answers to being alone can encourage a child’s independence and ability to create his or her own activities. Parents can empathize with a child’s unhappiness with the current situation, but they don’t need to be a constant playmate or sources of entertainment.

With pre-teens and teenagers the problems can sometimes be more difficult. Social interaction is extremely important to these age groups and the disappearance of classrooms and the freedom to just hang out with friends often are more serious issues than simply being bored. Additionally, older children are better able to understand the health and societal problems this health crisis has brought, which can mean higher levels of anxiety and stress as they worry not only about their own health, but that of others close to them.

Allowing fewer restrictions on electronic interactions is one way for today’s pre-teens and teens to stay connected. Social media and cellphone chat times can be replacements for that face-to-face time the kids previously enjoyed. 

But parents also need to watch for any serious problems that today’s changed world can bring to their kids. Significant changes in eating and sleeping habits, being overly argumentative, or withdrawing from family and friends for extended time periods can all be signs of depression. Depression isn’t simply being sad, but it’s a serious, longer-term mental health issue which is treatable and for which medical and mental help should be sought.

“Counseling Corner” is provided by the American Counseling Association (ACA). Send your comments and questions to or visit the ACA website at

Local COVID-19 cases rise by eight in two weeks Thu, 16 Jul 2020 10:58:38 +0000 By Randi Pierce
Staff Writer

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases among Archuleta County residents has doubled since the end of June, with the county sitting at 16 confirmed cases as of noon Wednesday, with seven patients having recovered.

From April 17 to June 29, Archuleta County remained at eight total confirmed cases among residents.

As of noon Wednesday, San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) reported 11 confirmed cases among nonresidents in Archuleta County through Tuesday, but the agency notes that does not include all cases who are visiting the area.

That figure, according to SJBPH’s website, “ includes cases who were visiting from another country, state or county in Colorado. This will include any cases that are reported to SJBPH and were tracked or investigated by the team. This will not include cases who live in La Plata county but sought medical care in Archuleta. This data should be interpreted carefully because it does not include ALL cases who are visiting the jurisdiction, this only includes the cases that SJBPH was notified of and performed a case investigation in order to prevent spread of COVID-19. These cases will be included in the case counts for the location of their permanent residence.”

As of Tuesday evening, Pagosa Springs Medical Center (PSMC) had reported 16 nonresident positives of patients tested at its facility.

As of noon Tuesday, PSMC reported 59 pending tests, and CEO Dr. Rhonda Webb reported that PSMC is currently seeing a turnaround time for test results of five to 10 days.

Webb noted that PSMC continues to do in-house testing, but is having trouble getting supplies for its in-house testing.

Dr. David Shaeffer, co-owner of Pagosa Medical Group (PMG) reported Tuesday that PMG continues to test daily for COVID-19 patients in its curbside lab and is seeing a turnaround time of two to three business days.

Testing continues to be available elsewhere in the community, as well, at Archuleta Integrated Healthcare and through other programs with SJBPH, with each agency having different testing protocol and requirements, such as appointments or walk-in availability.

There also continues to be capacity concerns in the region, and local health officials continue to urge everyone to help slow the spread.

Webb reported to The SUN that Mercy Regional Medical Center remains at surge capacity for its ICU beds.

“Much of the time, Archuleta County residents are transferred to Mercy, so this is concerning,” she wrote in an email.

“This is the highest level we’ve seen in the entire pandemic,” Mercy CEO Michael Murphy said in a Tuesday La Plata County Economic Development Alliance investor meeting, explaining that a combination of COVID-19 patients and other patients who have delayed care has created capacity challenges.

Murphy noted during the meeting that five of its 23 ICU beds were being used for COVID patients as of Tuesday morning.

“Medical professionals have used masking, isolation, and hand washing to control the spread of disease for many decades,” Webb wrote, adding, “It is even more important to continue this practice during a pandemic, and I hope people in our community will adopt these practices and slow the spread, so that local resources are not overwhelmed.”

“We are strongly encouraging our patients to avoid public gatherings, wear a face covering in public places, and try to keep 6 feet away from others when possible,” Shaeffer wrote in an email to The SUN.

PSMC and PMG, as well as other local health care facilities, continue to be open for regular patient care with additional protocols in place to increase safety.

Regional cumulative case counts

As of noon on Wednesday, La Plata County was reported as having 149 cases (with 64 recovered and one death among cases). As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, Conejos County was reported as having 18, Rio Grande County logging 82 (with two deaths), Mineral County having 17 and Hinsdale County tallying three.

Neighboring and near Archuleta County to the south, Rio Arriba County, N.M., listed 140 cases (with 43 recovered and one death), and San Juan County, N.M., listed 2,742 cases (with 1,537 recovered and 173 deaths) as of Tuesday afternoon.

The Jicarilla Apache Nation, which largely falls within Rio Arriba County, had announced 112 cases as of July 14, with 35 recovered. According to media releases from the nation’s president, Darrel Paiz, 53 new cases were the result of community-wide testing that was conducted on July 9 and 10.


Archuleta County resident tests positive for COVID-19 Mon, 22 Jun 2020 23:00:31 +0000 San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) and Pagosa Springs Medical Center confirmed late Monday afternoon that Archuleta County has another new positive case of COVID-19.

The patient is a resident of Archuleta County, according to the announcement, making nine cases among county residents.

According to the announcement, “The patient is in isolation and SJBPH is conducting contact tracing to quarantine and educate any individuals who may have been exposed.  Due to patient privacy, no additional information is reported about the patient.”

Protect yourself from wildfire smoke during COVID-19 Thu, 18 Jun 2020 21:00:29 +0000 By Claire Ninde
San Juan Basin Public Health

As southwest Colorado enters wildfire season while still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) advises the public to take measures to protect themselves from both the novel virus and wildfire smoke. 

Protecting oneself is especially critical for those who are susceptible to or who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, those with compromised immune systems and those with health conditions that make them additionally susceptible to smoke. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, exposure to wildfire pollutants can irritate lungs, cause inflammation, alter immune function and increase susceptibility to respiratory infections, including COVID-19. 

The most important precaution for people to take when wildfire smoke becomes heavy in an area is to stay home and indoors as much as possible. If this is not possible, people should wear a face covering, but most face coverings will provide only partial protection against wildfire pollutants. 

 SJBPH recommends staying indoors, reducing activity and using HEPA air cleaners indoors to reduce overall smoke exposure. Another option that should be considered for sensitive individuals is temporary relocation out of the smoky area, if possible.

Cloth face coverings that are used to slow the spread of COVID-19 offer little protection against harmful air pollutants in wildfire smoke because these coverings do not capture most small particles in smoke. Masks with better filtering such as N95s provide the best protection against wildfire smoke particulates, but generally do not remove wildfire smoke gasses. Because of the presence of smoke gasses and because N95s and other medical-grade masks are used by frontline health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, the best response to wildfire smoke becoming heavy in your area is to remain indoors.

Populations known to be vulnerable to wildfire smoke exposure include: 

• Children less than 18 years; 

• Adults age 65 years or older; 

• Pregnant women; 

• People with chronic health conditions such as heart or lung disease, including asthma and diabetes; 

• Outdoor workers; 

• People of low socioeconomic status, including those who are homeless and with limited access to medical care. 

Populations who might also be at high risk from wildfire smoke because of COVID-19 include those who are immunocompromised or taking drugs that suppress the immune system and those with or recovering from COVID-19 — because of compromised heart and lung function due to COVID-19, they may be at increased risk of health effects from exposure to wildfire smoke. 

Respiratory symptoms such as dry cough, sore throat and difficulty breathing are common to both wildfire smoke exposure and COVID-19. If you are experiencing severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing or chest pain, you should seek prompt medical attention by calling 911 or calling ahead to the nearest emergency facility. 

For more information on coronavirus, see:

Don’t let screen time take over Sun, 14 Jun 2020 11:00:44 +0000 By John Lough
American Counseling Association

The COVID-19 crisis and restricted social contact has many of us spending more time in front of electronic screens. It might be the family TV, our business laptop or streaming on our smartphone. For our kids, it’s often some gaming device or social media via their phones. Whatever, the result is that our screen time is increasing significantly.

While business demands for adults and online classes for kids are clear reasons why today’s world requires us to spend more time with our electronic devices, many of us are also spending a great many more voluntary hours online just to fill in time. This is often not a good thing.

Too much screen time isn’t going to make you go blind, though it can lead to eye fatigue and headaches. But those excessive hours online can have a negative effect on family life.

If every family member constantly has their faces buried in their favorite electronic time killers, there is usually less time for family sharing and interaction. You may notice your kids aren’t sleeping as usual, they seem to get little or no exercise and have trouble showing up at set mealtimes. Look a little closer and you may find that your own screen time is also encroaching on what should be other, normal activities for you.

So, how to fix the problem? A starting point is simply to develop a schedule. Video game time for the kids isn’t whenever they can’t think of anything else to do, but maybe a two-hour block after they’ve done their chores or schoolwork, and another block while dinner is being prepared. If there’s online class assignments to be tackled, make that clearly separated on the schedule from play time.

Adults’ screen time can also be scheduled. Time spent watching TikTok videos or constantly streaming old TV shows can usually be used in more productive and fulfilling ways. Yes, physical exercise and outdoor time should be on the schedule, but art projects, reading, gardening or starting a new hobby can also deserve time blocks. 

Having to turn off that electronic plaything with nothing else to do is going to frustrate both kids and adults. But using that time instead for something interesting, maybe even educational or fun, makes the day more fulfilling and can help make time back online more enjoyable and entertaining, which is what it should be.

“Counseling Corner” is provided by the American Counseling Association (ACA). Send your comments and questions to or visit the ACA website at

More Coloradans qualify for health insurance in special enrollment period Sun, 14 Jun 2020 11:00:31 +0000 By Claire Ninde
San Juan Basin Public Health

Coloradans who have purchased health insurance coverage outside of the Connect for Health Colorado Marketplace (commonly referred to as “off-Exchange” or “off-Marketplace”) and who recently experienced a reduction of income may qualify for a special enrollment period.

To qualify, individuals must have:

 1. Been enrolled in an insurance plan that qualifies as minimum essential coverage at least one day in the last 60 days.

2. Experienced an income reduction such that they are now making less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level, which makes them newly eligible for financial help.

Contact San Juan Basin Public Health to see if this enrollment opportunity applies to you or if other coverage options may be available. The agency can also aid with the enrollment process. Call San Juan Basin Public Health at 335-2021 for more information.

Exercising for improved mental health Tue, 09 Jun 2020 11:00:54 +0000 By John Lough
American Counseling Association

The health crisis that we have been facing over the past several months has had a major effect on just about every aspect of our lives. Even for those of us lucky enough not to have been directly touched by the virus, the lives we are living are nevertheless quite different from what they were just weeks ago.

Most of the changes and impact that coronavirus has brought are beyond our individual control. But what is not beyond our control, and what each of us should address, is how we are handling and reacting to how this pandemic has affected us individually.

That’s easy to say but not always easy to achieve. The majority of us, for example, are probably experiencing fairly high levels of anxiety and depression even if we are not totally aware of such feelings or how they are affecting our lives. Today’s modern world has increasingly come with fairly high levels of anxiety. But the recent health crisis has significantly increased our personal worries and challenges, with the result that our mental health may be a great deal more fragile than it once was.

There is, of course, no way to make the outside world and its pressures actually disappear. That doesn’t stop some people from turning to drugs and alcohol as a means of ignoring reality. We would, instead, like to suggest some healthier actions for you to take.

One of the simplest, yet very effective, ways to combat anxiety and depression is just to become more physically active. A number of studies have found that exercise provides a wide variety of mental health benefits. Exercise can take your mind off your current worries, as well as help your body release natural chemicals, those feel-good endorphins, that enhance your sense of well-being.

Getting more exercise in your life doesn’t have to mean a formal exercise program or working out with a personal trainer, although those are approaches that work for many people.

Any physical activity that works your muscles and requires energy is going to help improve your mental health. This can be as simple as a daily walk in the sunshine, getting out in the garden or even just doing housework. 

The goal is to be more physically active in ways that help focus your attention on things besides a cycle of negative thoughts that feed those feelings of depression and anxiety.

“Counseling Corner” is provided by the American Counseling Association (ACA). Send your comments and questions to or visit the ACA website at

Maintaining good mental health is essential Sat, 30 May 2020 11:00:14 +0000 By John Lough
American Counseling Association

The last few months have left many of us feeling shaken. Life can be more difficult and hard to manage when we are so strongly affected by things far outside our area of control. But one of the secrets to getting through difficult times is to focus more heavily on those areas of our lives which we can control.

A starting point is your physical health. While that certainly means doing all you can to minimize your exposure to the COVID-19 virus, it also means working to keep yourself in the best physical condition possible.

Regular physical exercise, as we all know, is important regardless of a major health crisis. But with today’s worldwide health problems, it’s vital to do all you can to help your body face any threats it may encounter. Although your local gym or YMCA may have had to close, this isn’t an excuse to become a sloth. Want a home workout? Check the literally thousands of online videos offering exercise advice and workout sessions for people in all types of physical condition.

If workout videos aren’t to your liking, simple activities like daily walks not only help improve physical fitness, but also mental fitness.

The long-term isolation brought on by the coronavirus pandemic can take a very real mental toll. We have less contact with others, we find ourselves bored and it certainly can be a factor in aggravating mental health issues, especially depression.

Improving your mental fitness isn’t much different than working on your physical fitness. That daily walk, for example, is a time to ignore the latest news, to forget about how life has changed for you, and to be aware of nature as you clear your mind. An effective way to lower stress and fight depression is simply to refocus your mind on pleasant, enjoyable things rather than to worry about all that is wrong.

There are numerous activities that can help accomplish that refocusing. Are you staying in touch or renewing contact with family and old friends? Yes, the phone and Internet are still working just fine. What about taking up that hobby you abandoned a couple of years ago, or working through that pile of books you’ve been promising yourself you’d get to some day?

Maintaining positive mental health is important throughout our lives, but especially so during rough times such as we are experiencing today.

“Counseling Corner” is provided by the American Counseling Association (ACA). Send your comments and questions to or visit the ACA website at