By Randi Pierce
Archuleta County now has six confirmed cases of COVID-19.
San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) announced the five new cases on April 4.
According to a press release from SJBPH, these individuals are currently self-isolating and SJBPH will take all steps necessary to get in touch with anyone who had close direct contact with residents who are positive for COVID-19 to provide instructions for self-isolation, self-quarantining and monitoring of symptoms.
SJBPH declined to give information about where the five new cases were tested and does not disseminate demographic information about regional cases.
In addition to announcing the five new cases, SJBPH also reported on April 4 that all results from the SJBPH community test site at Pagosa Springs Medical Center (PSMC) on March 30 came back negative for the virus.
The community testing site provided tests for 40 individuals and resulted in no lab-confirmed positive tests for the highly contagious novel coronavirus but warned, “Despite these test results, the COVID-19 virus can be missed with current testing.”
“With both the shortages in widespread testing and the possibility of tests missing the virus, please continue to self-isolate if you have symptoms. This is particularly important in a small community with less access to healthcare,” said Liane Jollon, executive director of SJBPH.
SJBPH advises individuals who have COVID-19 symptoms — such as fever, dry cough and shortness of breath — to assume that they have the virus and follow Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) guidance on isolation.
On Monday, Gov. Jared Polis extended the state’s stay-at-home order through April 26.
“All residents of Archuleta County are urged to continue to make responsible choices to protect your community and stay at home,” Jollon said. “Each of us carries outsized responsibility to keep our families, our friends and our entire communities healthy and safe. Right now, our individual actions are the only tools we have to stop the spread of the highly contagious virus.”
While also urging that safety measures be taken, regional officials continue to prepare for a potential surge in cases, though models are not in agreement in their predictions of when that surge will hit.
Models range from Colorado having hit peak resource use over the weekend to that peak hitting at varying times during the spring and summer dependent upon how Coloradans adhere to social distancing guidelines.
“Your actions are saving lives,” CDPHE Executive Director Jill Hunsaker Ryan said at a Monday press conference in urging Colorado residents to continue wearing a cloth face covering when out of the house.
She reported that an estimated 17,000 to 18,000 Coloradans have had COVID-19, not including people who were infected but asymptomatic, though she noted testing and surveillance is only capturing about 28 percent of cases.
“We are still at the beginning of this epidemic,” she said, pointing out that they are starting to see stress on the health system in the state and adding, “We are certain our peak has not hit.”
Dr. Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist, explained the spread of cases is slowing based on the amount of time it is taking the number of cases in the state to double, but added, “Now is not the time to back off.
Pagosa Springs Medical Center (PSMC) CEO Dr. Rhonda Webb indicated PSMC continues to plan with other regional hospitals, health care facilities and community sites to prepare, and has made changes to its facility to better treat patients both with COVID-19 and other ailments.
Everyone who enters PSMC, including employees, is screened for fever and other COVID-19 symptoms, and those entering the facility should be wearing masks.
Webb and Kathee Douglas, chief operating officer, explained that PSMC continues to work on obtaining more personal protective equipment (PPE) and is setting up a new system to sanitize some masks to allow them to be safely reused.
The facility has also implemented changes in patient rooms to minimize possible exposures.
SJBPH has urged citizens to “keep yourself, your family, and your friends and neighbors safe” by:
• Staying at home.
• Washing your hands thoroughly and frequently.
• Staying 6 feet away from others when out in public.
• Covering your nose and mouth when out in public.
“We know that Coloradans across our state are making personal sacrifices to prioritize the public health and safety of their family and neighbors,” Polis said recently. “The better job we do at staying home and wearing facial masks whenever we absolutely must go out to contain the virus in Colorado, the sooner we can return to something resembling economic normalcy. Refusing to stay at home will only extend the state’s economic pain.”
For more information on making your own cloth mask, visit https://www.coloradomaskproject.com/.
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.
How to be tested
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.
Call for medical volunteers
PSMC is compiling a list of volunteers to call on if there is a surge of patients or a medical personnel staffing shortage.
“In an effort to be proactive during the COVID-19 pandemic, Pagosa Springs Medical Center is creating a list of medical personnel who are willing, ready, and able to volunteer at Pagosa Springs Medical Center should a need for additional personnel arise,” PSMC’s request states.
All certified and/or licensed medical personnel, including those who have retired but still have a valid license and/or certification in Colorado, are eligible to volunteer.
All requests and/or inquiries regarding volunteering should be sent to Krista Starr, medical staff office manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.