Summit County files emergency declaration as 2nd COVID-19 case is confirmed
FRISCO — A second case of COVID-19 has been discovered in Summit County, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
The department confirmed 23 new presumptive positive cases in Colorado on Friday morning, including one in Summit County. The state currently has at least 72 positive cases in total.
According to a statement from Summit County officials, the individual who tested positive for COVID-19 has been identified as a male in his 70s. He provided a sample for testing March 9, and the presumptive positive result was returned March 13. He’s been in self-quarantine since March 8.
Based on the date he started seeing symptoms, the man most likely contracted the virus while traveling in other infected areas in the High Country outside of Summit County. Summit County Public Health officials are working with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to identify and notify any others who might have been in direct contract with the man.
Summit County’s Director of Emergency Management Brian Bovaird said that the individual took all of the necessary steps once he began showing symptoms and that the man’s “footprint” of potential contacts is thought to be small.
“We’re continuing to dig deeper,” Bovaird said. “But he handled things pretty textbook in that he started feeling bad, self-quarantined, called the doctor and all of that.”
It’s currently unknown whether the man is a Summit County resident, where he lives or where he visited. Summit County Public Health is expected to release more information related to potential health risks to the general public as it becomes available.
Despite this being just the second confirmed case in the county, officials believe it’s only a matter of time before community spread becomes a problem in the area as it has in other communities throughout the state — including in other mountain communities like Eagle and Pitkin counties.
“A great analogy would be that what we’re dealing with right now is like having a wildfire in Summit County,” Bovaird said. “And every other county in the world is having one, too. … We’re certainly trying to keep up with how it’s developing.
“We’re a small community, but there are definitely some dynamic things in play here. … We have a bunch of tourism, and if there needs to be quarantines, it’s on us to find housing and food. The staff at the hospital is working like crazy to make sure they can provide services. … A lot of times, we’d rely on other communities, but they’re in the same boat. This is definitely uncharted waters.”
As news came in regarding Summit’s second confirmed case of COVID-19, others around the county still are awaiting news on test results of their own, including employees at the Silverthorne Recreation Center and Arapahoe Basin Ski Area.
On Thursday, the town of Silverthorne announced that a recreation center employee was being tested for novel coronavirus, and that the center would be closed until the town received an update on the employee’s test results. As of Friday evening, the town is still awaiting results.
The employee being tested last worked at the center in the aquatics area from 4:15-6:15 p.m. March 4, according to the town. Prior to working that day, the employee used the men’s locker room, cardio and circuit areas of the facility between 3:30-4:15 p.m. Additionally, the employee visited the recreation center as a guest March 9 and used the men’s locker room, circuit and cardio areas from 2-3 p.m., according to the town.
All recreation center guests who are believed to have had direct contact with the employee March 4 have been notified.
The recreation center closed indefinitely Thursday night, and staff is facilitating a “deep clean and disinfection procedure” recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At this point, there’s no estimated reopening date, though officials expect the closure to be prolonged.
It is anticipated that the town will learn the employee’s test results sometime this weekend. A community update will be provided by 4 p.m. Monday at the latest, according to the town.
On Friday afternoon, A-Basin announced that one of its call center employees also was being tested for the virus.
The employee was answering phones at the resort’s call center March 7 and has become ill, according to a statement from resort Chief Operating Officer Alan Henceroth in his blog. The employee was tested Friday, and results are expected back within 72 hours. The ski area and call center are both expected to be open as scheduled this weekend.
In addition to the employee being tested, four others who worked directly with the employee are in self-quarantine until the test results are received. The employee’s work area has been cleaned along with the rest of the call center and adjoining offices.
Further efforts are being made to increase cleaning across the ski area, in particular at the Kids Center and in food and beverage operations, according to the statement.
Summit files emergency declaration
As concerns surrounding the new coronavirus continue to grow around the Western Slope and the rest of the state, officials in Summit County also are taking additional steps to make sure they’re able to respond to the pandemic financially.
On Thursday night, Summit County filed a local emergency disaster declaration with the state to help support its COVID-19 response. The declaration will help to offset the costs of responding to and recovering from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, which likely will exceed the county’s available resources.
Emergency declarations are commonplace in response to incidences like the new coronavirus arriving in the community, according to Bovaird.
The declaration will be in effect until March 19, unless the Summit Board of County Commissioners decides to extend it. The board is scheduled to consider an extension during its regular meeting March 17.
The state is also ramping up operations to curb the spread of the virus. In a press conference Friday morning, Gov. Jared Polis noted that the state is hoping to continue expanding testing capabilities to meet growing needs.
Polis said Friday morning that there were a total of 72 confirmed positive tests for COVID-19 in the state, including at least eight hospitalizations and three individuals in critical condition, though the amount of individuals actually infected is likely considerably higher. One of those patients later died, marking the first death from the coronavirus in Colorado.
“We want to make sure everyone is prepared and aware,” Polis said. “We have seen other areas that are two or three weeks ahead of where we are in the contagion. … There are likely thousands of cases in Colorado that have not yet been tested or whose tests are pending. … I want to urge my fellow Coloradans in these challenging times to keep perspective but also take personal responsibility to do your part to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
First on the state’s list is the expansion of testing capabilities. According to Polis, Colorado’s capabilities already have surpassed most of the nation, with about 10% of the country’s 11,000 tests coming out of Colorado so far. As capacity continues to grow, state officials are urging anyone with flu-like symptoms to reach out to health care providers and get tested, so that even if their symptoms disappear, they’ll know whether they can return to work or if they should stay in self-quarantine.
Officials also are taking additional steps to try and prevent the state’s health care infrastructure from being overrun. Beginning Friday, medical providers who are licensed out of state will be given the opportunity to be licensed in Colorado to help address potential shortages. Similarly, the state has begun contracting dozens of out-of-state nurses and is authorizing local EMTs and paramedics to administer COVID-19 tests. The state also is asking any former medical workers who are retired or working in different fields to reach out to their former employers, which could help protect against surges.
Polis also addressed concerns about outdoor recreation and the ski industry in Colorado. While at-risk populations — those over 60 years old or with underlying health conditions — have been asked to avoid the High Country, Polis noted that outdoor recreation is a great way to get out and about while still participating in social distancing efforts.
In regard to the ski slopes, Polis simply asked that groups who are skiing together stick together and avoid mixing with other groups on gondolas or ski lifts.
“This really is an extraordinary moment, and it calls for extraordinary measures,” Polis said. “… It is the responsibility of all Coloradans to do our part to limit the severity of this public health emergency. Following proper hygiene, respecting quarantine and isolation, providing paid sick leave for employees and allowing allowances to work from home are all important for our work.”
Individuals feeling heightened stress or anxiety related to COVID-19 should reach out to Colorado Crisis Support at 844-493-8255, text “TALK” to 38255 or visit ColoradoCrisisServices.org. Individuals with general questions about the virus can call CO-Help at 303-389-1687 or 877-462-2911, or email email@example.com.
If COVID-19 does begin to spread in Summit County, at risk individuals should stay home whenever possible and avoid contact with others. Friends or family members at lower risk are being asked to help in providing them with food and other supplies. At risk individuals who do not have friends or family to help should contact Summit County Human Services at 970-668-2940 for assistance.
“Coloradans are resilient,” Polis said. “We’ve faced tough times before, and we’ll face tough times again … but we’re going to get through this together. We’re going to come out on the other side stronger.”
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