UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center puts new visitor restrictions in place | SteamboatToday.com

UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center puts new visitor restrictions in place

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center put new visitor restrictions in place on Sunday, March 8, as an “additional layer of protection for everyone,” said Communications Specialist Lindsey Reznicek. “To further protect our patients, visitors, staff and providers, UCHealth is expanding visitor restrictions and policies at its acute care facilities across the state,” which includes all hospitals.

  • Visitors with cold or flu symptoms are prohibited from visiting all areas.
  • No more than two visitors are allowed at one time.
  • Anyone under 12 years of age is prohibited from visiting all areas.
  • Only one designated visitor at a time will be allowed in the rooms of patients with either suspected or confirmed COVID-19. This includes patients whose test results are pending. Infection prevention teams will also track any visitors to patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

“There may be extenuating circumstances that require flexibility with these new restrictions,” according to Reznicek. “Unit leadership may approve exceptions to the policy if needed for specific situations, like a family who needs to visit a loved one facing end of life.”

There were no new “presumptive positive” cases of COVID-19 — coronavirus — identified in Colorado on Sunday, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Prior to Sunday, eight positive cases had been identified in the state. From 4 p.m. on Saturday to 5 p.m. on Sunday, the state completed 39 tests on subject fitting the criteria for testing.

Six of those eight cases were directly related to overseas travel, said Dr. Brian Harrington, public medical officer for Routt and Moffat counties.

Two of the cases are still under investigation, but Harrington noted no Colorado cases have yet been designated as “community transmission.” Community transmission means infections within a population are not imported from another virus-hit area.

On the plus side, Harrington said Colorado’s health department has been robust in their response in their preparations and is likely better prepared than some other states.

He said local health care providers have a direct line to the state and help is always available in determining whether someone may need to be tested.

While Harrington noted there haven’t been positive cases in neighboring communities — yet — they aren’t too far away.

There was a man who spent time in Summit County, Colorado’s first confirmed case last week. And on Sunday at 5 p.m., the Colorado health department stated, “We are aware of a confirmed COVID-19 in Australia with ties to the Aspen community. One woman in her 20’s who was visiting Aspen returned home to Australia earlier this week, where she tested positive for COVID-19. The individual had contact with Aspen residents and visitors at social gatherings; some of the people who had contact with the woman have reported experiencing respiratory symptoms.”

Harrington said local health care providers and the public health agency continues to follow state protocols for testing. The test involved a swab of the nose and throat, and the sample is then sent to the state’s lab.

The local providers don’t have the ability to run the tests here, he said, and likely won’t for weeks.

Test results are being prioritized based on risk, he said, with a turnaround time from the state of about 72 hours. While people are waiting for results, they are advised to self-quarantine until they get the results.

Harrington said his practice is getting calls from people who feel healthy and haven’t travelled or been exposed to a person with coronavirus, but they want to be tested.

At this time, “you can’t be tested just because,” he said.

There continue to be three criteria scenarios patients must meet, as per state guidelines.

First, a person must exhibit symptoms and have been in contact with a known COVID-19 patient, Harrington explained. Or, a patient is exhibiting symptoms and has recently visited a country with community spread. The third scenario involves anyone who is critically ill with a serious respiratory illness, like pneumonia.

Symptoms are primarily fever, cough and shortness of breath, he said.

And if you think you are at risk, Harrington advises first to call your primary care provider.

The hospitals in Steamboat and Craig also have nurse lines, Harrington said, as it is advised people do not call the emergency room unless there is an emergency.

At Yampa Valley Medical Center, ASK-A-NURSE operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is free and confidential. In Routt County, ASK-A-NURSE can be reached by calling 970-871-7878.

If you have an urgent concern or question about the virus, you can call the Colorado Health Emergency Line for the Public (CO HELP) at 1-877-462-2911. Interpretation is available in many languages, including Spanish.

But Harrington also urges to keep the virus in context — it is much more like the influenza than Ebola, he said. A bad flu year has a mortality rate of about 1%, while Ebola’s death rate was around 90%. “This is not Ebola,” he said.

While there are a number of variables, especially from country to country, Harrington said the current mortality rate for coronavirus seems to be between 1% and 3%.

In the data collected globally thus far, children are at low risk.

But it does seem to be more contagious than influenza, Harrington said. And there is a much higher danger for older people.

It is also important to remember that data, restrictions and best practices and can and will change frequently. And that this virus may be with us for months, if not years, he said. It isn’t looking like something that dissipates with warmer weather, like influenza.

The state defines people at a higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-9 as:

  • Older adults, especially over age 80
  • People who have chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease
  • Older adults who have chronic medical conditions are at highest risk

Harrington advises people in the higher risk category in our community to “stock up on some supplies and medications, so you don’t have to go out as often, keep space between yourself and others, avoid sick people, avoid crowded places and practice good hygiene.”

That doesn’t mean just staying home, he said. “If we get to a stage of community spreading, then I would recommend high risk people stay at home. But we are not there yet.” However, he does advise high risk people to strongly consider not going on cruises or airplanes.

For anyone else who is sick but not in the high risk category and not meeting the state’s testing criteria for coronavirus, Harrington recommends staying home until at least 24 hours after a fever stops.

In terms of going to work, Harrington advises both sick employees and their employers to be more observant about not exposing others.

“Employers have to be reviewing their sick leave policy,” he said. And they should have a contingency plan on how to operate if they are short on employees or if they can have their employees work from home.

“It’s possible this may change our approach to the working sick,” he said.

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

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