Coronavirus: Public Health Emergency Operations Plan in place

Photo courtesy Pagosa Springs Medical Center
Pagosa Springs Medical Center CEO Dr. Rhonda Webb poses with a sign at the facility urging anyone who suspects they may have come in contact with coronavirus to not enter a medical facility, but instead call to arrange to receive care.

By Randi Pierce
Staff Writer
COVID-19, or coronavirus disease 2019, has been splashed across headlines across the globe for several weeks now, with the United States now experiencing spread.
Since surfacing in China, COVID-19 has been transmitted person to person, with cases now confirmed in 76 countries as of Wednesday morning.
In the U.S., 80 cases had been reported as of Wednesday morning, with those occurring in 13 states.
As of press time Wednesday, no cases had been confirmed in Colorado.
To help lead the local emergency response to COVID-19, San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) has activated its agency Public Health Emergency Operations Plan, which includes working with area medical providers to manage any potential cases.
“SJBPH is working to ensure the health and safety of people in Archuleta and La Plata counties should COVID-19 impact our region. The agency is leading the emergency response to COVID-19 by following its Public Health Emergency Operations Plan, which includes specific plans for pandemics and communicable disease containment. SJBPH is conducting its response by utilizing its internal Incident Management Team and coordinating with state and local partners in its response efforts. The agency is working to provide timely and accurate information about the outbreak to local community members and stakeholders, as well as sharing guidance with local health care providers,” a press release from the agency states.
Those who believe they may have come in contact with someone with COVID-19 or who have traveled to an area of the world with high infection rates are asked to call their medical providers instead of going to a medical facility in order to assess the need for testing.
Those without a doctor can call SJBPH at 247-5702, option 1.
Kathee Douglas, Pagosa Springs Medical Center’s (PSMC) chief operating officer, explained Tuesday PSMC, like other providers, is seeking to test and treat any potential cases outside of its facility — in a vehicle or ambulance.
If someone with COVID-19 needs local hospitalization, Douglas explained, PSMC has a negative pressure room that limits air exchange with rest of facility, or the patient can be treated in an ambulance.
“We’re still categorizing the risk as low,” Douglas said, noting that PSMC’s preparation began on Feb. 26, when staff met to review the medical center’s current pandemic policy, which is what is used to manage potential pandemic in the community.
That document was reviewed with recommendations from the CDC to make sure the two were in agreement, and when it was determined they were, the policy was instituted.
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains, a novel coronavirus not previously seen in humans that first surfaced in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China.
The website notes, “The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.”
The respiratory illness, SJBPH states, most commonly causes fever, tiredness and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea.
Symptoms, the agency has released, are usually mild and begin gradually, and some people become infected, but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell.
About 80 percent of people, the department states, recover from the disease without needing special treatment.
Those more likely to develop serious illness are older people and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, the department states.
An ounce of prevention
Those who are worried about coronavirus, or any other respiratory virus such as the flu, can protect themselves by practicing the following every day, according to SJBPH:
• Cleaning hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub.
• Covering nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing.
• Avoiding close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms.
• Staying home if you feel sick.
• Getting a flu shot if you haven’t gotten one this year.
Where can I learn more?
Several local, state and national health organizations are offering information on COVID-19:
• PSMC: http://pagosaspringsmedicalcenter.org/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19-update/
• SJBPH: https://sjbpublichealth.org/coronavirus/
• Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/2019-novel-coronavirus
• CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html
• World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/westernpacific/emergencies/covid-19.

This story was posted on March 5, 2020.