COVID-19: Governor orders statewide stay-at-home order


By Randi Pierce

Staff Writer

Editor’s note: The story below was printed before Gov. Jared Polis instituted a statewide stay-at-home order starting Thursday morning to try to slow the spread of COVID-19.

That order went into effect at 6 a.m. Thursday, March 26, and continues until at least April 11.

“All we’re asking is for you to stay at home for as much as possible for the next couple of weeks to buy us the time that we need,” Polis said at a Wednesday news conference. “It’s not too late to act now to stay home to save lives.”

You can read more about that order here: https://tinyurl.com/rhkyqle

Also, on Wednesday evening, Pagosa Medical Group (PMG) announced the following on Facebook:

“PMG in cooperation with Cedar Diagnostics will be expanding outpatient COVID-19 testing starting Thursday, March 26th.
“Due to the high demand for testing, we will be following VERY strict testing criteria and procedures.
“TESTING CRITERIA:
“1. You are sick with respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath) and/or fever
“AND
“2. You are over 60 years old, pregnant, OR have one of the following jobs: healthcare worker, law enforcement, EMS, Fire, first responder, grocery store employee, retail store employee, truck driver, day care worker, or other similar mission-critical community worker.
“If you meet the testing criteria, you MUST follow this procedure:
“1. TEXT us at 970-372-0456 and request a test by stating why you meet testing criteria
“2. We will call you when we are ready for you
“3. When you get the call, you must drive to the back of our building and park in front of the lab entrance.
“4. STAY in your car at all times, the lab technician will come to you!
“5. Because you will be considered a Person Under Investigation (PUI) you MUST verbally commit to isolating yourself at home until your test results are available OR until 7 days have passed since your symptoms started AND you have been without symptoms or fever for 3 days.
“6. Have pre-payment ready (see below)
“IF YOU DO NOT FOLLOW THIS PROTOCOL YOU WILL NOT BE TESTED!!!
“At this time there is no way to bill your insurance company for the test. This is a national problem. This will change very soon.
“You will have to pre-pay $99 at the time of testing with cash, check, or credit card number/expiration date.
“Checks should be made out to Cedar Diagnostics. PMG will not be profiting from any of this testing.
“We are actively pursuing grant funding to pay for testing for people that cannot afford it.
“If anybody has the means and wants to “pay it forward”, we will apply donations to test people that cannot afford it.
“We anticipate a long list of patients that will request testing and we will test them one at a time. Be patient! You might have to wait more than a day for us to call you.
“Testing criteria will be expanded as our lab’s capacity increases.
“The turnaround time on these tests will be AT LEAST 4 days. This is the best we can do at this time.
“These tests will NOT be going to the State Lab, so we will not be interfering with tests for hospitalized patients across the State of Colorado.
“This is an FDA approved test.
“So you may be asking, What has changed?
“1. National testing capacity has increased
“2. We now have more Personal Protective Equipment thanks to community donations (but keep them coming!)
“3. We now have more swabs and viral transport media
“4. Testing is one of the most important public health steps in controlling an
epidemic. We want to try to be ahead of the game in Archuleta County.
“5. We are surrounded by counties with positive cases and we are COMMITTED to keeping this pandemic to a minimum in Pagosa.”

The following is the original printed version of the story:

With the first known positive cases in the region being announced this week (in La Plata County and Hinsdale County residents), local health officials are continuing to encourage actions to slow the spread of COVID-19, or coronavirus disease 2019.

On Monday, San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) issued an advisory urging “our community members to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 and STAY AT HOME to every extent possible — especially if you are among the high risk category, to limit non-essential activities of daily life, and to minimize and prevent social contact. Those who exhibit symptoms must isolate themselves so as not to infect others.”

Pagosa Springs Medical Center (PSMC) stated in a press release earlier this week that the community should assume COVID-19 is already circulating in the community and advised taking protective measures such as frequent hand-washing and staying at home as much as possible to slow the spread of the virus.

“We assume it is in our county,” PSMC CEO Dr. Rhonda Webb told the board of the Upper San Juan Health Service District, which oversees PSMC, on Tuesday evening in a report about COVID-19 efforts at PSMC.

“We have been working hard at PSMC to flatten the curve. We feel that we have to flatten the pandemic curve to avoid exceeding the capacity of the hospital and our region to care for patients. To slow the spread, we have been following the advice of the CDC, local public health has been great, and we have been trying to stay a step or two ahead of where … other people are by looking at other states in our nation, other countries in our world, and, again, trying to flatten those curves down so that we do not have a surge of patients that overwhelm all of our hospitals’ ability to care for them like is happening in New York City and like is happening in Seattle and other places,” she said, adding later, “This is unprecedented in our lifetime, no doubt about that.”

Webb reiterated that local providers have not tested many due to shortages in testing supplies, such as the viral transport media needed to get swabs to the testing labs.

“We’ve been trying to preserve those tests because they’ve been in such short supply,” she said, explaining that PSMC, like others, have been treating people who present with the symptoms as positive and providing treatment plans. 

Out of 10 tests performed locally, she reported, three were negative and the results are pending for seven.

As of press time Wednesday, no cases had been reported in Archuleta County, four cases had been announced in La Plata County and 912 confirmed cases were reported in the state, with 11 deaths.

Webb also pointed out the fact that the number of COVID-19 patients in Colorado requiring hospitalization tripled over a six-day span, from 26 on March 18 up to 84 as of March 24, with PSMC continuing to prepare to care for any COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization.

“We feel like we have to prepare for the worst and pray for the best,” Webb said of the planning efforts.

Webb also told the board there has been an outpouring of support, with dentists and others donating N-95 masks and community members sewing masks that can be used to help preserve N-95 masks.

PSMC has also postponed its elective surgeries, which helps PSMC have more personal protective equipment on hand. 

Webb noted it takes an estimated 22 yellow personal protective gowns a day to treat a COVID-19 patient in isolation. 

Archuleta County testing

PSMC Chief Administrative Officer Ann Bruzzese reported to The SUN Wednesday that SJBPH is planning to operate a mobile testing site in Archuleta County with 50 tests available. Details of that testing site will be announced on www.PagosaSUN.com when available.

PSMC changes

PSMC announced earlier this week that all patients seeking care at PSMC will be screened for illness upon entering the facility. Screening consists of a series of questions about one’s health, including potential exposure to the virus, along with scanning for fever. 

Additionally, PSMC is no longer allowing people to visit or accompany patients, except a parent/guardian visiting or accompanying a minor child. 

“We continue to care for patients in outpatient, emergency department, and other areas, and we’re taking additional steps to protect the health and safety of patients and staff,” Webb stated. “Like many hospitals, we have limited resources, including personnel, and if our staff are exposed to COVID-19 and need to be quarantined, they will be unable to care for patients in what could quickly become an extremely busy time.”

PSMC continues to care for patients who need emergency care, urgent walk-in care, urgent and emergent surgical care, and diagnostic services.

COVID-19 symptoms and medical contacts

COVID-19 symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Those who experience these symptoms should self-quarantine and call their health care provider for a treatment plan.

Following are the phone numbers for local medical providers:

• PSMC: 731-3700.

• Pagosa Medical Group: 372-0456.

• Archuleta Integrated Healthcare: 264-2104.

• Those without a doctor can call SJBPH at 247-5702, option 1.

Where can I learn more?

Several local, state and national health organizations are offering information on COVID-19:

• See related stories in this issue of The SUN.

• Visit www.PagosaSUN.com and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pagosa.newspaper for updates on community closures, business information and more.

• PSMC: http://pagosaspringsmedicalcenter.org/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19-update/

• SJBPH: https://sjbpublichealth.org/coronavirus/

• CDPHE: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/2019-novel-coronavirus

• CDC: www.coronavirus.gov.

• World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/westernpacific/emergencies/covid-19.

randi@pagosasun.com

NOTE: This story was updated to correction the following:

Last week’s issue of The SUN contained a quote from Pagosa Springs Medical Center CEO Dr. Rhonda Webb that said, in part, “… we haven’t been trying to stay a step or two ahead …”

The correct quote is: “We have been working hard at PSMC to flatten the curve. We feel that we have to flatten the pandemic curve to avoid exceeding the capacity of the hospital and our region to care for patients. To slow the spread, we have been following the advice of the CDC, local public health has been great, and we have been trying to stay a step or two ahead of where … other people are by looking at other states in our nation, other countries in our world, and, again, trying to flatten those curves down so that we do not have a surge of patients that overwhelm all of our hospitals’ ability to care for them like is happening in New York City and like is happening in Seattle and other places,” she said, adding later, “This is unprecedented in our lifetime, no doubt about that.”

The SUN regrets this error.

This story was posted on March 26, 2020.