By Randi Pierce
On Wednesday, March 25, Gov. Jared Polis added Colorado to the states with populations told to stay at home in order to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019).
That stay-at-home order then went into effect on March 26 — the same day Archuleta County learned of its first positive test.
As of the end of the day Tuesday, San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) reported 23 cases in La Plata County and one case in Archuleta County. The Southern Ute Indian Tribe announced Sunday that two of its employees had tested positive.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) listed 2,966 cases across 50 counties with 69 deaths.
Additionally, the CDPHE reported 16 outbreaks at residential and non-hospital health care facilities in the state.
But, as Pagosa Springs Medical Center (PSMC) Chief Administrative Officer Ann Bruzzese indicated Tuesday, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (https://covid19.healthdata.org/) data suggests there could be a surge of patients somewhere in the span of mid-April to mid-May.
She noted, however, that a surge can happen at any time with one exposure.
To help prepare for that surge, Bruzzese explained, PSMC is working on a regional approach to care and continues to monitor areas where surges are occurring now.
PSMC is also assessing staff on an on-going basis to limit exposures, is managing resources and is working to obtain more personal protective equipment.
Testing in the region has also increased.
PSMC hosted a drive-through testing event on Tuesday afternoon, with SJBPH now waiting on the results of 43 tests done Tuesday, according to Claire Ninde, SJBPH director of communications.
Due to limited swab and testing supplies, PSMC uses the following criteria for testing: patients with symptoms (e.g., fever, cough, shortness of breath) and are either hospitalized, health care workers, first responders, or meet certain epidemiological criteria.
Pagosa Medical Group (PMG) is now working with a private lab and is offering tests to symptomatic patients of all ages.
Dr. Dave Shaeffer of PMG reported to The SUN Wednesday morning that PMG has done 26 tests. Of those, 15 have come back negative and 11 are pending.
For more on how to be tested at PMG, visit https://pagosamedicalgroup.com/ or Pagosa Medical Group on Facebook.
According to the state’s website, under the order, you should stay home as much as possible except for critical activities including:
• Obtaining food and other household necessities including medicine.
• Going to and from work if you are a critical employee.
• Seeking medical care.
• Caring for dependents or pets.
• Caring for a vulnerable person in another location.
• Participating in outdoor recreation at a legally mandated safe distance of 6 feet or more from other parties.
While outdoor recreation and going to essential businesses are allowed under the stay-at-home order, residents are urged to be vigilant about maintaining the needed distance while out and about, with the order stating, “All individuals currently living within the State of Colorado are ordered to Stay at Home whenever possible. Individuals living in shared or outdoor spaces must at all times, to the greatest extent possible, comply with Social Distancing Requirements, and may leave their Residences only to perform or utilize Necessary Activities.”
New advice on face
SJBPH issued a press release Wednesday afternoon mirroring what is surfacing at a global level — recommending covering one’s nose and mouth when leaving the home for essential travel to the grocery store, doctor or pharmacy.
“Safely cover your face with a bandanna or homemade cotton face covering, reserving hospital grade masks for health care workers and those who are sick,” the press release states.
The press release indicates that studies indicate that there is no reason to not use a face covering as a precaution, and wearing something over your nose and mouth can provide an additional layer of protection for those who must go out.
“Many aren’t aware they are spreading COVID-19 as they carry it without having symptoms, or their symptoms are mild,” it explains. “The spread of the virus occurs primarily through droplets from an infected individual, which fabrics can filter. A face covering helps lessen the risk for a healthy individual to breathe in droplets as well as lessens spread from one who may not realize they’re sick. When face coverings are combined with frequent hand washing, they help reduce the transmission of infections.
Wearing face coverings also serves as a strong message to others that these are not normal times, and that we all need to change our behaviors to stop a devastating epidemic. As more residents start wearing face coverings, this action may be regarded as an act of solidarity, showing that all residents are on board with the responsible steps needed to reduce the spread of the virus.
“Also, face coverings are a good way to remember not to touch your face. Wearing a face covering will deny you access to your own face and make you conscious of how often you are tempted to touch your nose and mouth.”
SJBPH continues to stress that staying at home and physical distancing (at least 6 feet away from another person) are the best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
To safely adhere a face covering:
• Tie long hair back.
• Wash your hands well.
• Secure the face covering over your nose and mouth.
• Do not touch your face or the face covering. If you do, sanitize your hands thoroughly.
• Leave the covering on until you can safely remove it.
• Remove your face covering immediately if it becomes wet or if you feel you’ve been in contact with someone who is sick.
To safely remove a face covering:
• Wash your hands.
• Grab the face covering by the area that goes over your ears.
• Take the covering off, keeping the outside of it away from your face, and place directly in the washing machine or a site where you will appropriately sanitize.
• Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
COVID-19 symptoms and medical contacts
COVID-19 symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Those who experience these symptoms should self-quarantine and call their health care provider for a treatment plan.
Following are the phone numbers for local medical providers:
• PSMC: 731-3700.
• PMG: 372-0456.
• Archuleta Integrated Healthcare: 264-2104.
• Those without a doctor can call SJBPH at 247-5702, option 1.
Where can I learn more?
Several local, state and national health organizations are offering information on COVID-19:
• See related stories in this issue of The SUN.
• Visit www.PagosaSUN.com and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pagosa.newspaper for updates on community closures, business information and more.
• PSMC: http://pagosaspringsmedicalcenter.org.
• SJBPH: https://sjbpublichealth.org/coronavirus/.
• CDPHE: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/2019-novel-coronavirus.
• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.coronavirus.gov.
• World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/westernpacific/emergencies/covid-19.
By Randi Pierce