Preparations continue for Covid-19 pandemic Governor declares state of emergency

By Randi Pierce
Staff Writer

Colorado is now in a state of emergency to allow for more resources to help combat the COVID-19, or coronavirus disease 2019 outbreak, which was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday.

“We’re gonna get through this together, but the actions that we take in the next few days and weeks will really determine the trajectory of coronavirus in Colorado,” Gov. Jared Polis said at a Tuesday press conference announcing the state of emergency.

Polis explained the declaration would help Colorado focus on its most vulnerable population.

“What it does is it gives us access to resources and more legal flexibility to take steps now to protect the most vulnerable and better contain the outbreak, truly reducing the chances of the trajectory that has occurred in countries like Italy from occurring here in Colorado,” Polis said.

Polis cautioned that, with greater testing capacity, there will likely be more reported positives, with the governor calling testing a “crucial tool” in slowing the spread of the virus.

“The bottom line is this: The more people we test and the sooner we do it, the better chance we have at successful containment,” Polis said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) reported that Colorado had 33 presumptive positive cases (cases are deemed presumptive positive until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, confirm them) and one indeterminate case that was being treated as positive. 

As of press time Wednesday, no cases were confirmed in either Archuleta or La Plata counties, according to San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH).

Pagosa Springs Medical Center (PSMC) CEO Dr. Rhonda Webb reported that PSMC had done one test as of Wednesday morning, but noted that more people are asking to be screened to determine if they need tested.

“The more people we screen, we probably will start seeing some,” Webb said, noting the medical center is in contact with SJBPH numerous times a day and follows the state and CDC guidelines.

But, while those who believe they may have had COVID-19 exposure are asked to call a medical facility to determine appropriate care, PSMC staff stressed that PSMC continues to be open to treat the public.

“We treat infectious diseases of many sorts all the time and our staff are prepared to take care of a patient with an infectious disease and other patients with other sorts of problems. This is not a new thing for hospitals,” PSMC Chief Administrative Officer Ann Bruzzese noted.

PSMC Chief Operating Officer Kathee Douglas also encouraged the public to remain calm, explaining that there is no evidence that says the population in a general sense is at a severe risk.

Webb also pointed out that Colorado’s population is 6 million.

State and local agencies continue to prepare and stay up-to-date on the status of the illness.

On Wednesday, it was announced the CDC is awarding $9,331,323 to Colorado in support of COVID-19 response.

Locally, community leaders continue to monitor the spread of the disease and ensure that emergency preparedness plans are in place, with a multiagency community emergency planning exercise planned for Thursday.

Archuleta School District Superintendent Linda Reed reported to The SUN Wednesday that the district has an infectious disease and pandemic response plan created by SJBPH in place and is monitoring the situation closely.

Medical contacts

Those who fit the following criteria are asked to call their health care provider to arrange for appropriate treatment: if you have fever, cough or shortness of breath and you have recently traveled to a location where there is an outbreak of COVID-19, or have the symptoms and had close contact with others who recently traveled as described or who have been exposed to or contracted COVID-19.

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.

Prevention

A Wednesday press release from SJBPH notes that, based on the information the CDPHE is receiving from presumptive positive cases, the CDPHE has reason to suspect that it is seeing limited community spread in Colorado.

“Limited community spread (or transmission) means there are cases and outbreaks in certain communities where people became infected, and we are unable to identify the source. Limited person-to-person spread (or transmission) means a person in Colorado became infected from a known exposure to another person in Colorado,” the press release states.

The CDPHE suggests the following preventative actions:

• Frequently and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.

• Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash, or use your inner elbow or sleeve.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

• Stay home if you’re sick, and keep your children home if they are sick.

• Clean surfaces in your home, and personal items such as cellphones, using regular household products.

The CDPHE also suggests practicing social distancing:

• Don’t shake hands. Instead, bump fists or elbows.

• When possible, increase distance between people to six feet to help reduce spread.

• Consider whether you want to take a trip or attend public gatherings.

• Follow CDC guidelines on travel.

• If there is ongoing spread in your community, consider reducing the number of large group gatherings or activities.

• Discourage children and teens from gathering in other public places if school is closed.

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/

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

• CDC: www.coronavirus.gov.

• WHO: https://www.who.int/westernpacific/emergencies/covid-19.

randi@pagosasun.com



This story was posted on March 12, 2020.