Summit Medical Center representative gives update on hospital capacity, testing at Breckenridge community update |

Summit Medical Center representative gives update on hospital capacity, testing at Breckenridge community update

Heather Knappe, a nurse for Centura Health, tests a patient for coronavirus at the drive-up community testing clinic at the Vista Professional Building in Frisco on April 28.
Photo by Jason Connolly

Community testing, hospital bed availability and Pitkin County’s decision to require a negative COVID-19 test before entering the county were discussed at the Breckenridge Tourism Office’s community update on Friday, Dec. 4. Aaron Parmet, the infection prevention program manager for St. Anthony Summit Medical Center, gave a presentation regarding the hospital, Centura Health’s testing and tracing of the novel coronavirus.

Parmet shared specifics on the hospital’s resources, which includes 34 licensed inpatient beds, a flight for life helicopter and negative airflow isolation rooms. Additionally, the hospital has thermal scanning cameras to scan all visitors and staff when they enter the hospital and a robot that uses UV light to help clean and kill pathogens, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

He said that the hospital has never gone into surge capacity or run out of isolation rooms despite seeing COVID-19 patients. He added that the emergency room has been busy, but hasn’t overflowed, and there have not yet been any hospital-acquired workplace infections of the virus among staff.

During the Q&A segment of the community update, a participant asked if the hospital had not reached its surge capacity because it has been transporting patients to Denver. Parmet said some patients have been moved since Summit County’s elevation is not conducive for people with respiratory illnesses to thrive, but many remain in place.

“If folks need care at a lower altitude, if that’s the best place for them, we’re absolutely going to move folks to the best place for their care,” Parmet said. “Do we move out most folks that come to our hospital with COVID-19? No, we do not. But we definitely move folks down when the care indicates that that’s what’s right for them.”

The hospital is developing its own vaccine deployment plan for when the vaccine becomes available, Parmet said. He added that while testing began in April at very limited availability, this is no longer the case and anyone can get tested.

He also addressed why other groups like Vail Health have come to the community to expand testing.

“We’ve been working to make sure there’s safe testing in the county in any weather condition because the testing requirement for our county has grown beyond what any one group can do and that’s why there’s many groups involved in testing,” Parmet said.

As for testing metrics, Parmet said that Centura has conducted over 14,000 COVID-19 tests since March, and over 10,000 of these tests have been conducted on Summit County residents. He said that the turnaround time for results is 20-30 hours.

Parmet also said that the Vista building in Frisco has been set up to accommodate safe testing in all weather conditions. While Summit County COVID-19 testing sites are currently only in Frisco and Silverthorne, Mayor Eric Mamula announced that Vail Health will start testing in Breckenridge at the Speakeasy Movie Theatre on Monday, Dec. 14.

Responding to a question, town manager Rick Holman said requiring a negative COVID-19 test before someone can enter the county is not being considered at this time, though it has been discussed by mayors and at managers meetings.

He said right now it is not a step that seems to be viable for Summit County. Mamula noted that it would be difficult to enforce, especially as Summit County sees a lot of daytrip traffic from the Front Range.

Speaking about the Thanksgiving holiday, Parmet said that while travel was down, some people still traveled and rising infection rates are expected. He noted that the hospital is prepared for a surge. Parmet reminded people of prevention measures, such as minimizing exposure times and contacts and wearing a mask, and recommended low-risk activities like snowshoeing and skiing for those craving socialization.

Parmet said the virus continues to be hard to pin down because there is no single symptom that occurs in every positive case and symptoms can often be minor. He said it is also difficult to control from a public health standpoint because it can be spread asymptomatically, or before symptoms surface for an individual.

Holman also addressed complaints about long lines at Breckenridge’s post office and said that the town has reached out to Sen. Michael Bennet and Congressman Joe Neguse for assistance.

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