Local medical facilities prepared for Safer at Home transition


By Randi Pierce
Staff Writer

Beginning next week, Colorado will transition from Stay at Home to Safer at Home, the first step in reopening more sectors of the economy while continuing social distancing and other protective measures.

Gov. Jared Polis announced the move, which will take effect April 27, during a Monday press conference.

“Coloradans in every corner of our state have stepped up and taken responsible steps to help bend the curve of this pandemic and we are grateful for these shared efforts that helped save lives and slow the spread. The deadly virus will continue to be with us, and we must wear masks and socialize less to avoid its rapid growth,” Polis said. “For seniors and those with pre-existing conditions, it’s important to stay home whenever possible through May. Though we are moving into a sustainable way of living during this pandemic, there are tough days ahead.

“This is a marathon — not a sprint, which was the easy part — now we need to pace ourselves and these distancing measures need to be sustainable. We’re going to have to learn to live with coronavirus for a while, but we must live not with anxiety or fear, but with extreme caution, especially if you are a member of a vulnerable population. I am thrilled that we are on the path to a sustainable way of living more safely, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t the potential that we have to return to a more cautious approach if the state sees a spike in new cases.” 

The governor discussed the three levels of social distancing Monday: Staying at Home, Safer at Home and Protect our Neighbors. 

On Monday, Polis discussed new modeling showing that the stay-at-home order has reduced social interactions by 75-80 percent since it went into effect. 

Polis and the subsequent press release state that, currently, Colorado has 10,000 reported cases, however, the state believes the real number is closer to 65,000-75,000 Coloradans — about 1.1 to 1.3 percent of the population.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Archuleta County’s count was still at eight confirmed cases.

Dr. Rhonda Webb, CEO of Pagosa Springs Medical Center (PSMC) and Dr. Dave Shaeffer of Pagosa Medical Group (PMG) both indicated they feel there is enough testing capacity locally to move forward with the transition.

“I think his model of slowly increasing opening up … is the right model,” Webb said.

“We’ve been testing for a month now and we’ve tested a lot of people,” Shaeffer said Wednesday, adding later that, by his calculations, about 3 percent of those tests are coming back positive, which is well within the World Health Organization’s guidelines for stepping back restrictions.

“We do have enough tests to test the sick people and our health care workers who are sick,” Webb said, adding that PSMC will continue to test when appropriate.

Shaeffer urged continued vigilance in living with the virus and reiterated that home is the safest place to be.

During Safer at Home, a state press release explains, Coloradans will no longer be ordered to stay home, but are still strongly encouraged to do so. Vulnerable populations and seniors must continue staying home except when absolutely necessary, and K-12 school districts and postsecondary institutions will continue to suspend normal in-person instruction until the end of the school year. 

The press release also notes that Colorado could return to the Stay-at-Home phase if there is a significant increase in cases or spread of the virus, and local governments will have the opportunity to implement stricter restrictions, particularly those experiencing an outbreak.

For more on what is allowed under Safer at Home, visit www.colorado.gov.

Safer at Home also explicitly allows medical facilities to again perform elective surgeries, and both PSMC and PMG indicated they will move forward with doing more procedures cautiously.

Webb and PSMC’s chief operating officer, Kathee Douglas, explained PSMC will do elective surgeries on a case-by-case basis and will avoid procedures on those with more risk factors.

They explained PSMC will do fewer cases per day than is normal and the operating room will be cleaned as if there is infectious disease present between each patient. Too, more or higher-level personal protective equipment (PPE) will be used for each procedure, and PSMC will continue to monitor its PPE levels.

Shaeffer expressed that PMG will also begin seeing more patients in its facility while still following strict guidelines.

Staying safe

San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) urges 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.

For more information on making your own cloth mask, visit https://www.coloradomaskproject.com/.

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.