Community test results show few positives so far |

Community test results show few positives so far

Routt County unveiled a new COVID-19 testing plan during a Board of Health meeting on Wednesday as officials see a reduction in cases. Though this comes as good news following a weekslong rise, the public should remain vigilant about following health guidelines to prevent future surges of the virus.
File photo/John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Of the 110 residents who were tested for COVID-19 on Saturday, April 18, just one test came back with a positive result, according to Routt County Director of Public Health Kari Ladrow.

On Wednesday, April 15, there were four positive results out of 61 tests.

“We are optimistic about these results and will look forward to getting a greater number of test results from continued community testing in order to achieve a greater denominator from a data perspective,” Ladrow said in an email interview. “The more test results we have, the better quality our data, from a community health perspective, is.”

More tests are being administered this week. On Wednesday, 73 tests were given in Steamboat, and 51 people were tested in Oak Creek.

Ladrow said the health department is planning additional testing events next week in Hayden and North Routt.

The results have been much anticipated by public health officials because the events represent the first time the county has been able to offer testing to anyone who is symptomatic and wants a test.

It’s not a scientific sampling, but it does give them a much better sense of how many people in the community are sick right now.

Of the 842 COVID-19 total tests done thus far in Routt County, public health nurses have administered 641 tests, including 253 at Casey’s Pond. As of Thursday, the county has 54 positive COVID-19 results, with 38 of those listed as recovered.

Routt County Board of Public Health guidelines for lifting restrictions

Is disease prevalence decreasing?

  • 14 days of decreased disease burden
  • Number of hospitalizations
  • Analysis of COVID-19 deaths
  • Active monitoring of positive cases

Do we have adequate testing capacity for diagnosis and contact tracing?

Can the health care system handle a potential surge of COVID-19 cases?

Do we have adequate public health staff?

Are prevention measures for personal responsibility in place, such as social distancing, face masks, etc.?

Note: This list only represents some of the metrics and questions that will be considered in lifting restrictions.

Based on the first week of community testing, early results suggest the disease burden is currently not very high in Routt County.

“Those are the results we hoped to see,” said Routt County Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brian Harrington. “I see the results as a validation of our community efforts, not a repudiation. I accept that there can be luck involved or other factors we are not accounting for. But I do not believe we can discount the important role of these kind of results made by our community’s commitment to and sacrifices for social distancing.”  

Ladrow noted that the number of people who have been tested remains small with only 3.27% of Routt County residents having been tested this far. Statewide, .93% of the population has been tested, according to Ladrow.

“Since there aren’t treatments other than supportive at this time and there isn’t a vaccine, our best defense is to remain vigilant while we continue to test, contact trace and isolate,” she said. “If we proceed too fast (in lifting restrictions), we could risk vulnerable members of our population, and that isn’t a risk we are willing to take.” 

Some communities are now pushing serology testing, which looks for antibodies in the blood with the ability to fight off the virus. Scientists emphasize it is not known at this time whether the existence of antibodies means a person is immune, or if they are, for how long.

In California, some mass serology testing is showing far more people have been exposed to the virus than have tested positive — not a surprising outcome given the lack of testing in February and March.

However experts were surprised to see just how widely spread the virus was in Los Angeles and Santa Clara counties. In L.A., it is estimated between 2.8% to 5.6% of adults had been exposed, translating into hundreds of thousands of people.

In Santa Clara, the county reported about 1,000 cases in early April, but researchers who administered antibody tests on 3,330 residents now estimate the actual total of infected people was between 48,000 and 81,000.

In San Miguel County in Colorado, a benefactor with ties to a Chinese testing company provided testing for residents. On April 21, the local health department reported that out of a total of 2,869 antibody tests that were administered, nine came back positive, 29 were borderline, 2,136 were negative and 695 are pending.

One of the first indicators on lifting restrictions is 14 days of decreased disease burden. Ladrow said officials will better be able to gauge that metric when they get all of the community test results back.

“As we have significantly increased testing, we have not seen a corresponding increase in positive cases, and the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community outside of Casey’s Pond has gone down,” Ladrow said.

Progress is also being made on another key criteria concerning adequate testing capacity for diagnosis and contact tracing.

“Adequate testing capacity is available to rapidly diagnose cases and aid in case contact tracing,” Ladrow said. “Routt County and UCHealth are now able to test anyone who has symptoms.”

Ladrow added she has set up contact tracing strike teams ready to be deployed next week. These teams will be used to mitigate any potential new outbreaks that could result from restrictions being lifted incrementally.

She said volunteers from the community have come forward and are being trained to support the contact tracing efforts, which require significant manpower.

Those interested in setting up an appointment for the community testing that will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 25, at the Howelsen Hill parking lot should call 970-870-5577. The tests are intended for anyone who has experienced potential COVID-19 symptoms in the past seven days.

To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.

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