Routt County marks 5th confirmed COVID-19 case; testing still moving at a slow pace
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Routt County Department of Public Health announced a fifth positive case of COVID-19 in Routt County on Monday morning.
The female, who is in her 30s, has been placed in isolation through a public health order. People within her household are in quarantine, and other close contacts have been advised to self-quarantine for 14 days, according to officials.
Colorado’s website still shows just three confirmed cases in Routt County as of Monday afternoon, but local officials are now getting information more quickly than it is being released by the state.
The first two cases, both out-of-state visitors, recovered and have been released from quarantine. The third, a local man in his 20s, remains in isolation, as does the fourth case, a man in his 80s.
Since Routt County started testing, it has conducted 113 tests as of Monday evening, with about half of those test results still pending with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
With 108 tests reported Sunday, that means only five tests were conducted Monday.
In Routt County:
5 positive cases
720 positive cases
6,224 people tested
5 outbreaks at residential and non-hospital health care facilities
At the specimen collection site operating through a partnership between UCHealth and the state and county public health departments, 54 tests were conducted between March 16 and Monday, March 22.
Asked why more tests weren’t taking place at that location, Routt County Public Health Director Kari Ladrow clarified the “test collection site was not created to do more testing with different criteria. It was created to have an option for residents to be tested with a medical order meeting the same criteria to help offset residents coming into medical facilities.”
And it isn’t that local officials don’t want to do more testing, as they have stated repeatedly. They say they don’t have the resources.
“We cannot test as many people as we want,” said Routt County Public Health Officer Dr. Brian Harrington at a panel discussion Friday, March 20.
There has also been highly restrictive criteria passed down from the federal government and the state on who is allowed to be tested.
“In particular, due to limited test reagent and materials, state and private labs continue to have meager test processing materials,” Ladrow said Monday when asked why more testing isn’t being done.
“This environment of limited test resources continues to dictate a prioritization of testing criteria,” she said. “We are cautiously optimistic that testing capacity will grow in the weeks ahead, which would allow for increased numbers of residents to be tested.”
Health care workers are in an increasingly high category of prioritization, as the need for those frontline responders at the hospital is only going to increase.
Across the country, numerous reports tell of nurses waiting in isolation for weeks to find out whether they have COVID-19 before they are allowed to return to work.
The state lab, as well as private labs, is facing a massive backlog of tests. Results are taking about a week to come back, which considerably hinders the local public health department’s ability to conduct the contact tracing investigations in a timely fashion and locate people who have potentially been exposed.
The importance of early testing cannot be overstated. In South Korea, where cases showed up at the same time as in the U.S., the government was able to begin mass testing — fast, early and free to patients.
Today, everyone is scrutinizing how South Korea is successfully flattening the curve and doing so without the draconian measures utilized by China or the ones currently wreaking economic havoc in the U.S.
Researchers aren’t finding any magic bullet, but rather a response that was swift, involved widespread testing and contact tracing and support from citizens.
On Monday during a work session, the Routt County Board of Commissioners discussed moving forward with public health orders on Tuesday to shut down short-term housing and strengthen restrictions on large gatherings of people, including outdoors.
They talked about difficult decisions being made, but the necessity to prioritize health over the economy.
The less county officials know about where the virus is and how quickly it is spreading, the more they must rely on social distancing measures.
At UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center, Communications Specialist Lindsey Reznicek reported the hospital is collecting specimens from admitted patients and immunocompromised patients who meet clinical criteria for COVID-19 testing.
“We will also collect specimens from any health care workers and first responders who may have been exposed,” Reznicek said, adding that those tests are included in numbers from the county. “The hospital is also working to get their own testing capabilities online.”
But more information on when that might happen was not provided.
At Monday’s county commissioner work session, Harrington said a large part of the issue right now is the limited supply of the reagent material required for the test. A reagent is defined as a compound or mixture added to a system to cause a chemical reaction or test if a reaction occurs.
Harrington also reported the county had received 100 test kits from the state and that the testing criteria is being revisited “every day.”
It isn’t a frustration unique to Routt County, or to Colorado, as local governments are increasingly trying to find their own ways to do more testing without so much reliance on the federal government.
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.
- People who are not sick do not need face masks to protect themselves from respiratory viruses, including COVID-19.
- Ill people should wear a mask to protect family members or in any scenario where needed to prevent the spread of germs.
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