Routt County issues emergency declaration
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Routt County issued an emergency declaration on Friday, March 13, in response to the confirmation of two positive cases of COVID-19 in Routt County.
Earlier on Friday, the Routt County Public Health Department confirmed two people, a man in his 50s and a woman in her 20s, had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. They contracted the virus outside of Routt County, authorities said, and at this time, there is no evidence of community spread.
The emergency declaration is an “administrative tool that can help facilitate access to funding and other resources,” according to a news release issued by the Routt County Board of Commissioners.
“We have no idea how much it (response to the coronavirus) is going to cost,” said Tim Corrigan, chair of the Board of Commissioners. “Having said that, the county is not willing to skimp on resources for our public health and emergency operations departments and our need to protect the public.”
On Tuesday, March 10, Colorado Governor Jared Polis issued an emergency declaration for the state, and on Friday, March 13, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency.
Other counties with cases of COVID-19, including Pitkin and Eagle, have issued emergency declarations as well.
“While there are likely to be more cases of COVID-19 in Routt County, the declaration does not mean we think Routt County is any less safe than other communities impacted by COVID-19,” said Corrigan in the news release. “This is an important step to ensure that we have all the tools we need to manage the situation and ensure public health and safety.”
The primary purpose of the declaration, Corrigan said, is to make the county eligible for potential reimbursement from federal and state governments for resources spent responding to the COVID-19 outbreak locally.
The declaration is in effect until March 20, unless the county commissioners take further action. That will be considered at their March 17 meeting.
This week, Routt County Emergency Operations activated both its joint information system and emergency operations center. That means meeting with key people representing 15 countywide emergency support functions every day at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Those entities include transportation, public works and medical care. They’ve set up a virtual emergency operations center, Corrigan said, and will evaluate moving into a physical space Monday, March 16.
The response is similar to what would happen in the event of a natural disaster, Corrigan said.
“It was important to file the declaration as soon as possible,” county officials said, “because some resources are triggered based on the date a declaration was put in place.”
Corrigan said the county has hired a contract nurse to help with collecting test samples, conducting contact tracing to help with containment and conducting sampling at people’s homes. The commissioners are looking at hiring another contract nurse, he said. Several months ago, unrelated to coronavirus, the county hired a full-time public health nurse, whose first day of work is Monday.
Also on Friday, the state announced the first COVID-19 death in Colorado. A woman who was in her 80s and had underlying health conditions died in El Paso County.
Corrigan encourages people to go to the county’s website at co-routtcounty2.civicplus.com for updated information and resources.
There is a lot of information out there, Corrigan said, and a lot of misinformation. He requests people “stay calm and look to reliable sources of information.”
Before immediately heading to the hospital, people who are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 have several resources, including:
- The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is providing a phone line to answer questions from the public about COVID-19. Call CO-Help at 303-389-1687 or 877-462-2911 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for answers in English and Spanish, Mandarin and more.
- UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center offers Ask-A-Nurse, a 24/7 call line staffed by registered nurses who can assess symptoms and provide advice on seeking care. In Routt County, Ask-A-Nurse can be reached by calling 970-871-7878.
- Virtual Visits can be done from the comfort of your home and only require a computer or tablet with a working webcam, speakers and microphone, or a smartphone.
- If patients are experiencing severe symptoms or having difficulty breathing, they should visit the hospital’s emergency department.
Take precautions in everyday life:
- Frequently and thoroughly wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% 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 cell phones, using regular household products.
- Be calm but be prepared.
- Employees at businesses and customers are required to wear a mask, according to a statewide public health order.
- Limit distance between non-household members to 6 feet when indoors and outdoors.
- The maximum group size for indoor activities is 10.
For the time being, it is business as usual at the county offices, Corrigan said, other than ramping up the cleaning and sanitization of county facilities. They have not closed any services.
Corrigan said it is important to remember that while the coronavirus outbreak is taking place, the public health department still must continue all the other work they do, including tracking other infectious diseases.
“We understand how difficult a situation this is for our residents, for our visitors and county staff,” Corrigan said. “But we are really confident we are taking steps necessary to — if not contain — at least mitigate the spread of this disease. And we don’t believe there’s any reason to panic. We think if we all work together, we will get a handle on this.”
Those with questions about COVID-19 can call the CO HELP Hotline at 1-877-462-2911. Current recommendations and updates on COVID-19 can be found at https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/2019-novel-coronavirus.
To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.
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