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Pitkin County Press Releases

Posted on: March 1, 2020

Public Health Officials Collaborate to Prepare for Potential COVID-19 Cases in Colorado

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Colorado has not yet experienced a case of COVID-19,  but health officials anticipate that it is only a matter of time before cases emerge. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE), at present, the risk to the general public is low and Colorado has no cases. 

“Pitkin County Public Health (PCPH)  is working with local, state and federal partners to ensure we are prepared to respond should our County be impacted with a confirmed case of COVID-19, and we will continue preparations if higher levels of disease occurs in our region, said Pitkin County Public Health Director, Karen Koenemann. Last week, in California, one case of potential community spread of COVID-19 was confirmed. This is the first such case in the United States. Community spread means spread of an illness for which the source of infection is unknown. 

“This is a quickly evolving situation, and we should pay attention and be prepared, however there is no need to panic”  Koenemann said. 

Public Health System Preparations

The public health system, across the state and nation, is focused on slowing the spread of the virus, preparing for a potential pandemic, and ensuring the safety of the communities we serve. Pitkin County Public Health is preparing with its partners for potential widespread community transmission of COVID-19. 

“Comprehensive containment response measures are described in detail in Pitkin County’s Public Health Emergency Operations Plan, developed many years ago for situations such as this one, which includes activating pandemic and community containment plans in the event that Pitkin County has positive cases. Local response plans contain tools and protocols to assess potential exposures and ill people and implement disease control measures.

“Over the years, we’ve built strong relationships with our health and medical partners to ensure our response is proactive, strong and collaborative,” Koenemann said.  

PCPH is participating on regular calls hosted by the CDC and regular statewide calls with CDPHE and other local public health agencies (LPHAs, including Eagle and Garfield County)  to understand the current situation and associated impacts in Colorado, as well as to coordinate efforts related to protocols around a potential case, conducting the necessary investigation, and information sharing to ensure we stay up-to-date and understand current guidance and recommendations. PCPH is  working with CDPHE and following federal guidance from the CDC regarding monitoring any cases which fall under their current risk criteria and are fielding calls regarding patients with fever and lower respiratory symptoms to assess potential COVID-19. 

PCPH is communicating with and providing guidance to local partners including but not limited to; health care providers, child care facilities, schools, transportation and employers. We are meeting with partners to review our Pandemic Plan, which has triggers for specific action our community would take collectively, such as activating an Incident Management Team (IMT). 

Everyday Preventive Measures for Community Members 

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. The CDC recommends individuals and families follow:

  • Voluntary Home Isolation: Stay home when you are sick with respiratory disease symptoms. At the present time, these symptoms are more likely due to influenza or other respiratory viruses than to COVID-19-related virus.

  • Respiratory Etiquette: Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw it in the trash can.

  • Hand Hygiene: Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with 60%-95% alcohol.

  • Environmental Health Action: Routinely clean frequently touched surfaces and objects.

  • The CDC is NOT recommending masks for the general public. 

PCPH also recommends using this as an opportunity to do basic preparedness planning for yourself and/or family. “Think of the measures you and your family might take if we had several “snow days” in a row; such as extra medications on hand, childcare if schools close, etc. Take this time to dust off, or make a preparedness plan for any disaster or emergency” states PCPH Emergency Preparedness Coordinator, Carlyn Porter. 

How Can I Get Tested for COVID-19? 

In Colorado, there are three circumstances where public health may decide that you need to be tested:

  • One: You have signs or symptoms of COVID-19 infection such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath AND you have been in close contact with someone confirmed with COVID-19 
  • Two: You have signs or symptoms of COVID-19 infection AND you have recently traveled to parts of the world where infection rates are high or community spread is occurring such as China, Italy, and South Korea. 

  • Three: You have severe respiratory illness that requires hospitalization AND other diagnoses such as influenza have been ruled out. 

  •  If your medical provider thinks you may have COVID-19, he or she will contact state or local public health departments for instructions on testing. CDPHE will make the final decision about testing for COVID-19 virus. Currently, only public health labs and the CDC are able to do tests for COVID-19. If you need to be tested, your doctor will collect a specimen from your nose and throat and send your samples to a public health lab. 

Have Questions and Want More Information?

  • Preparedness planning information and support at Ready.gov https://www.ready.gov/

  • General Colorado specific information about confirmed cases, negative tests, and pending tests: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/2019-novel-coronavirus 

  • CO HELP (1-877-462-2911) is activated for COVID-19 for questions from the public. As a reminder, the Colorado Health Emergency Line for the public is a toll-free hotline for up-to-the-minute public health information. 

  • Pitkin County Public Health will continue to post the most up-to-date statements on our website (https://www.pitkincounty.com/1079/Public-Health), which also has links to the most up-to-date information from CDPHE and the CDC. 

MEDIA CONTACT: Karen Koenemann, Director of Pitkin County Public Health - 970-429-6171



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