From the editor: What we don’t know
We knew it was only a matter of time before Routt County had its first confirmed case of COVID-19. The news confirming two positive cases came around noon Friday, March 13, and within minutes of the Steamboat Pilot & Today publishing a breaking news story, community members were already demanding more detailed information about the two individuals who tested positive for coronavirus and are now under quarantine after visiting Steamboat Springs this past week.
This is to be expected, and we understand people are scared. But it’s important to realize there is certain information that will not be made public to protect those individuals’ privacy and ensure that those who think they have the coronavirus will not fear being tested.
The Pilot & Today news team has been working diligently to keep the community informed about the COVID-19 with news about the pandemic being released at an almost frenetic pace. We are focused on providing the most up-to-date, accurate information possible to our readers, and we believe public health officials share our mission.
In the case of Routt County’s response, local health officials made themselves immediately available to reporter Kari Dequine Harden after the first two cases were confirmed by the state. She asked a long list of questions about the cases, and some of those questions were answered, and others were not. The responses we received were in line with a set of COVID-19 communications guidelines established by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which include:
- Not disclosing identifiable information about the patient.
- Not disclosing the identity of the medical provider or facility that administered the test without first coordinating with them.
- Not disclosing the location of the isolated individual or person under quarantine.
According to Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Executive Director Jill Ryan, health officials don’t release this information or a detailed list of where infected individuals have traveled, not only to protect a person’s privacy, but because the disease does not spread by location.
“From an epidemiological standpoint, there’s no value in revealing where these people are,” Ryan said during a Thursday press briefing. “It does not reduce spread at all to know where they are, as long as the orders that they’ve received, or the instructions they receive for self-isolation, are kept.”
She explained that epidemiologists, when conducting their contact tracing, focus on who the individual was in closest contact with, and then those individuals are contacted by health officials to inform them of possible coronavirus exposure.
It’s our job, as a news team, to continue providing our readers with the information they need to navigate the local effects of COVID-19, and as Friday’s edition illustrates, right now, that’s about all we’re reporting on. But rest assured, we’ll keep asking questions, and we’ll keep reporting the facts.
I encourage local residents to avoid focusing on what they don’t know, which can seem like a lot at this moment in time, and instead stay vigilant and try to control what they can to keep themselves, their family and the community healthy. This includes: washing hands frequently; practicing social distancing; staying at home if you’re sick; getting tested if you have symptoms of cough, fever and difficulty breathing; and getting your information from a trusted news source like the Steamboat Pilot & Today.
If you have any questions about our coverage or have an idea for a news story related to the coronavirus, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To reach Lisa Schlichtman, call 970-871-4221, email lschlichtman@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @lschlichtman.
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