Towns across Routt County stepping up COVID-19 preparations
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Across Routt County, government agencies are meeting regularly and have been reviewing and updating their emergency preparedness plans to deal with the spread of COVID-19.
Because all test swabs are sent to the state for testing, any presumptive positive results will come directly from the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment. Tests are labeled presumptive until confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control.
The message from local leaders is consistent — there is no reason for panic. They advise to listen to the guidelines and recommendations coming down from federal, state and local public health agencies.
“Stay calm, wash your hands and stay home if you are sick,” said Steamboat Springs City Manager Gary Suiter.
It isn’t time for panic, he said, but it is time for heightened awareness.
Local agencies are relying heavily on social media and their websites to provide the best and most updated information to the public. If you haven’t signed up for Routt County’s Emergency Alert System, there is no time like the present. Visit http://www.RouttCountyAlerts.com or call 970-870-5532 for assistance.
It’s a day-by-day system of monitoring, if not hour by hour.
Routt County Public Health Director Kari Ladrow explained the notification protocol in the event of a positive local result:
“When the state lab at CDPHE confirms a presumptive positive, CDPHE is directed to notify the Governor’s Office, the local public health agency, the provider and the media,” Ladrow said. “Public health agencies will then notify key officials or agencies in the jurisdiction, such as municipal and county officials, school districts if impacted, local emergency medical services, the county sheriff, emergency management and other impacted parties of a presumptive cases without disclosing any identifiable information such as the name, address or contact information.”
Ladrow said she communicates daily with the CDPHE and other public health agencies across the state.
In the event of a first confirmed case, and any subsequent cases, the protocol varies depending on whether the positive case is local or a resident of another state.
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.
“If the presumptive positive case is a resident of another state, CDPHE will take the lead in the contact tracing and investigation,” Ladrow said. “If the presumptive positive case is a Colorado resident then the county health department takes the lead and CDPHE plays a supporting role.”
“The appropriate agency is tasked with continuing the epidemiological investigation — interviews, contact tracing and issuing isolation and quarantine instructions and orders in an effort to minimize community spread,” Ladrow explained.
Routt County Emergency Operations Director David “Mo” DeMorat said the county activated both its joint information system and emergency operations center. It’s a “level 3 activation,” he said. 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.
The information center’s goal is to “make sure we are providing timely, accurate and consistent information to our residents and guests,” DeMorat said.
Suiter said Steamboat’s daily operations continue as normal but preparedness measures are “much more accelerated.”
Protocols are already in place for first responders regarding infectious diseases, he said, and everyone is getting a refresher.
The city also has plans in place for how to continue operations if people need to stay home due to illness. Protocol identifies essential personnel, and the city is working to provide more employees with the ability to work from home.
In Oak Creek, Town Administrator/Clerk Chris Johnson said he is in constant contact with Chuck Wisecup, chief of the Oak Creek Fire Protection District and mayor pro-tem. They are focused on protecting senior citizens, Johnson said.
Oak Creek town leaders also are paying attention to where seniors are coming in contact with other people. The town made the decision to cancel the afterschool program at the community center, largely due to low attendance numbers but also because it is held in a space where the kids co-mingle with seniors.
With about 16 government employees, the small town can keep things running with just a few people, Johnson said.
And always, Johnson said, he is relying on public health agencies, the experts and the best information available to make any decisions.
In Hayden, Police Chief Greg Tuliszewski is the point person.
“Right now, we are making sure people have information,” he said. His best advice is to “stay calm, stay informed and don’t overreact.”
There are still unknowns, Tuliszewski acknowledged, but Hayden is as prepared as it can be.
Tuliszewski also acknowledged the well-coordinated effort that is in place across the county.
“We are all tied together,” Tuliszewski said. “Everybody is working as a partnership. And it’s really excellent to see everyone coming together.”
To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.
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Twenty months after the South Routt School District announced it would close because of a burgeoning coronavirus, COVID-19 is more prevalent in South Routt than ever before.