Summit County moves from containment to mitigation after 6th confirmed COVID-19 case
DILLON — Another day, another new case of COVID-19 in Summit County.
One new case reported Wednesday follows the news of three additional cases Tuesday, when Summit County Public Health officials confirmed community spread, meaning the virus is passing from person to person within the Summit community.
Now that community spread is confirmed, Summit County health officials will shift their focus from containment to mitigation.
“In the containment scenario, testing serves the purpose of identifying people who have contracted the disease, isolating them, identifying close contacts, quarantining them and preventing the spread of disease in the community,” Summit County spokeswoman Julie Sutor wrote in an email Wednesday. “In the mitigation response, our focus is on flattening the curve to minimize surge on health care systems and prevent death.”
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Sutor went on to describe how the purpose of testing changes as the type of crisis response changes.
“We are prioritizing testing for the elderly, those with underlying health conditions, Summit County first responders and Summit County health care workers,” she wrote, saying test results for those patients would be used to inform health care providers in their treatment decisions.
The change in testing philosophy also is reflected in the location of a mobile test site that made a stop in Telluride this week, a town where community spread has not yet been confirmed as it has in Summit, Eagle, Pitkin and Gunnison counties.
“The reality of it at this point in the Eagle County area is that there is widespread community transmission, and the goal of the mobile lab is to go to other locations to inform our epidemiologists on potential growing areas of spread so that we can put the appropriate resources in the appropriate places,” state public health incident commander Scott Bookman told the Vail Daily on Monday.
Among the new cases this week in Summit County is part-time Breckenridge resident Michael Murphy, who said Tuesday that he tested positive. The Silverthorne Recreation Center employee who was tested last week also received a positive test result Tuesday. According to the town of Silverthorne, the employee was tested in Grand County so is not counted among the cases in Summit.
An employee at the High Country Conservation Center also tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday, according to an email from the nonprofit. The employee attended the Party for the Planet event March 6 but was not symptomatic at the time. The nonprofit has reached out to volunteers who might have had close contact with the employee during the event, but none has exhibited symptoms, according to Executive Director Jen Schenk.
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area reported last week that one of its employees had been tested, but spokeswoman Katherine Fuller said Wednesday that she is unsure whether the employee was actually tested for COVID-19 because a test was not available at that time.
Going forward, Summit County health officials said they no longer will release demographic information — including age, gender and residency — about new cases or where the person visited before being diagnosed.
Providing the detailed information to the community would put too much of a burden on health officials who already are scrambling to keep up with the outbreak, Sutor indicated.
“We have every reason to believe that the number of positive cases will continue to increase, and at a higher rate than what we’ve been experiencing over the past two weeks, stretching already taxed (Summit County Public Health) and medical resources,” Sutor wrote.
- Positive: 61
- Hospitalized: 32
- Deaths: 0
Source: Summit County Public HealthColorado
- Positive: 5,172
- Hospitalized: 994
- Deaths: 150
Sutor also said that age data, specifically, wouldn’t accurately reflect the outbreak because only at-risk groups are being tested.
“Younger, otherwise healthy people will not be tested in most cases,” she wrote.
Healthy people younger than 60 who are experiencing symptoms — including a cough, fever and shortness of breath — should plan to self-isolate at home for at least 10 days after the onset of symptoms, according to local health officials. People who were ill should leave isolation only after their symptoms improve and they don’t have a fever for 72 hours, without the help of fever-reducing medications. If symptoms worsen, people should call their health care provider.
Sutor also explained why information would not be released about where a person has been before testing positive.
“If we released information about all the places all our positives have been, it would likely include most public spaces in the county, and that would generate unnecessary panic,” Sutor wrote.
She said health officials continue to conduct “contact tracing,” or asking a patient where they’ve been and with whom they’ve had close contact. Anyone who has had close contact in a confined space for more than 10 minutes with someone who tests positive will be contacted by the county. The public health risk to anyone else is low, she said.
“With confirmed community spread, everyone should assume that they are coming into contact with the virus frequently when in public spaces,” Sutor wrote. “That’s why stressing the public health interventions is so important.”
Those recommendations include:
- Social distancing
- Frequent hand-washing
- Disinfecting high-touch surfaces
- Not touching your face
- Staying home
As of Wednesday evening, Summit had six of the state’s 216 positives cases, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Despite the low number of confirmed cases, officials are cautioning that the true number is likely much higher.
“We know there are likely thousands more in the state of Colorado,” Gov. Jared Polis said Monday.
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