Testing and contact tracing capacity increasing in Routt County | SteamboatToday.com

Testing and contact tracing capacity increasing in Routt County

More than 160 people were tested for COVID-19 during two community drive-through testing events held Wednesday, April 15 and Saturday, April 18 at Howelsen Hill parking lot.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — As restrictions begin to lift across the state and Routt County, the importance of testing and contact tracing infrastructure is crucial to staying ahead of an outbreak.

Those are two of the top metrics being used by policy makers across the country to gauge when and how reopening steps can proceed.

Steamboat Springs City Council President Jason Lacy said local testing capacity has seen a “vast improvement from where it was a couple weeks ago” at a virtual town hall panel Tuesday.

“We are still not quite at the point where we have the capacity to test all people,” Lacy said, which is especially important given the data showing around 20% to 25% of COVID-19 carriers are asymptomatic.

Lacey said the county should soon be able to cross that threshold of being able to test people who are not showing symptoms.

As of Wednesday, there have been 58 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in Routt County out of 1,034 tests administered. Of those, 43 are listed as recovered.

In Colorado, there have been 14,758 confirmed positive cases out of 69,449 people tested. There have been 2,621 people hospitalized and 766 deaths, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.  People age 80 or older make up 8.74% of total cases and 53.79% of total deaths.

Globally, there have been 3,187,030 confirmed cases. Of those, 1,037,526 are in the United States, where 6,026,170 people have been tested.

At Monday’s meeting of the Routt County Board of Health, Commissioner Beth Melton asked Routt County Public Health Director Kari Ladrow whether the community should anticipate seeing an increase in positive cases given the lifting of restrictions. Ladrow said that is to be expected.

Routt County Public Health Medical Officer Dr. Brian Harrington said, by building up testing and contact tracing capacity, the local health department is adding tools and the abilities to do things they weren’t able to do a month ago.

Those tools will “keep there from being a significant surge,” Harrington said.

Ladrow gave the commissioners a detailed presentation on the current efforts to build more contact tracing capability.

She described the recruitment of two contact tracing strike team leads, who are retired from careers with public health agencies and the Centers for Disease Control.

The two leads will each oversee a team of four volunteers, who Ladrow said will aide in swift contact tracing once an individual who has contracted the virus has been notified by the public health staff.

The contact tracing requires seven-day-a-week readiness, Ladrow noted, depending on when test results are returned.

Those teams then quickly dig into every close contact the person has had in the past 14 days and recommends those people to self-quarantine until they can get tested and results back.

With fewer stay-at-home restrictions in place, Ladrow said it is more important those tools are deployed quickly and effectively to mitigate further disease spread.

Based on the last two weeks of community testing, the numbers are still very low in terms of new cases/

“The local data collected thus far is currently synchronizing with anecdotal reports from clinics regarding fewer patients reporting respiratory/COVID-like symptoms, symptom tracker data and our current hospitalization rate for COVID in Routt County,” Ladrow said in an emailed response.

Of the approximately 150 tests administered over three days last week, there were three positive results from the testing events in Steamboat Springs and one positive result from the testing event in Oak Creek.

“This is a virus, and while numerical data is somewhat helpful, it isn’t a panacea, and it doesn’t negate the human experience of needing testing or contracting the virus,” Ladrow said. “As a society, we have somehow diminished the human experience of testing in this pandemic into nomenclature of simply positive and negative and numbers on a graph. 

“Individuals who are coming through our testing sites still report a degree of ostracism and shame around potentially contracting a virus, which has been somewhat disheartening to hear and serves as a reminder not to allow compassion to waiver because of fear,” Ladrow said.

This week, 22 people in Hayden and 17 people in North Routt signed up for testing. The event was held on Wednesday in North Routt and will take place Thursday in Hayden.

At Monday’s meeting, Ladrow emphasized that testing is just one piece of the strategy, as is contact tracing.

She said it is crucial people don’t lose sight of the importance of social distancing and personal levels of responsibility in ensuring the virus remains under control.

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

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