Number of new COVID-19 cases causes concern

By Randi Pierce
Staff Writer

As COVID-19 case counts tick upward, local health officials are again urging people to help flatten the curve and slow the spread of the illness in order to not overwhelm hospital resources.

Local officials are urging the public to be vigilant about wearing a mask, social distancing and handwashing.

As of midday Wednesday, Archuleta County was reported to have 13 cumulative cases among Archuleta County residents, with seven of those deemed as being recovered, according to San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) and Pagosa Springs Medical Center (PSMC).

“We are seeing in other hospitals that they are starting to have fewer ICU beds available,” PSMC CEO Dr. Rhonda Webb said Tuesday.

Webb noted she is concerned the area will surge beyond the capacity of PSMC and hospitals such as Mercy Regional Medical Center, where PSMC transfers patients needing a higher level of care.

“I have concerns, and I know that other area hospitals do. I have concerns with the number of cases that are increasing so quickly in our area over the last few weeks,” Webb said.

By the end of Tuesday, PSMC had positive results in 13 cases, with 10 of those patients not being residents of Archuleta County.

San Juan Basin Public Health’s (SJBPH) count of nonresident cases in Archuleta County sat at seven at the end of the day Tuesday, though PSMC reported another nonresident positive after SJBPH reported its daily data.

SJBPH’s notes that its nonresident case count, which includes cases from June 1 and after, does not include all of the nonresident cases in the county, stating, “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.”

Webb noted that the increase in confirmed cases is due to the illness being more widespread, not increased testing.

“We are all concerned about the quick increase in numbers,” she said.

Right now, Webb reported, PSMC has adequate testing supplies (and is working with SJBPH to obtain more testing supplies) and levels of personal protective equipment (PPE).

She noted that if PSMC continues to use up its PPE at the rate it currently is due to the increased spread of the virus, PSMC could face needing to again close down its surgery services.

“That is a fact,” Webb said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, PSMC had conducted 387 COVID-19 tests, according to a document provided by Webb. Of those, 13 had come back positive and results were pending for 35.

Webb said the majority of the tests have been for symptomatic patients, though some have been for asymptomatic people needing a test for a specific reason, such as returning to school or work.

PSMC is now able to provide limited on-site test processing, though the document explains, “Priority of testing will be hospitalized patients, vented ED patients, employees.”

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

Regional cumulative case counts

As of 4 p.m. on Tuesday, La Plata County was reported as having 138 cases (with 62 recovered and one death among cases), Conejos County having 15, Rio Grande County logging 80 (with two deaths), Mineral County having 13 and Hinsdale County tallying three.

Neighboring and near Archuleta County to the south, Rio Arriba County, N.M., listed 119 cases (with 40 recovered and one death), and San Juan County, N.M., listed 2,594 cases (with 1,438 recovered and 165 deaths) as of Tuesday afternoon.

The Jicarilla Apache Nation, which largely falls within Rio Arriba County, had announced 59 cases as of July 7, with 35 recovered.

This story was posted on July 9, 2020.