COVID-19 case count remains at eight for county: Most recent case removed from local tally

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By Randi Pierce
Staff Writer

On Monday, the first new COVID-19 case among Archuleta County residents since April was announced, although it was later discovered that individual is a resident of La Plata County.

On Wednesday, San Juan Basin Public Haealth (SJBPH) Director of Communications Claire Ninde explained to The SUN that the individual had an Archuleta County address for health insurance, but is actually a resident of La Plata County.

That means Archuleta County continues to have eight cumulative confirmed cases, with SJBPH reporting to The SUN Tuesday that seven of the eight cases have recovered.

SJBPH and Pagosa Springs Medical Center (PSMC) confirmed the new case in an announcement Monday, stating, “The patient is in isolation and SJBPH is conducting contact tracing to quarantine and educate any individuals who may have been exposed. Due to patient privacy, no additional information is reported about the patient.”

Regional cumulative
case counts

As of 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Archuleta County was reported as having eight confirmed cases, with La Plata County having 91 cases (with one death among cases), Conejos County having 12, Rio Grande County logging 66 (with one death), Mineral County having three and Hinsdale County tallying three.

Neighboring and near Archuleta County to the south, Rio Arriba County listed 82 cases and one death, and San Juan County, N.M., listed 2,235 cases and 151 deaths as of Tuesday afternoon.

The Jicarilla Apache Nation, which largely falls within Rio Arriba County, has announced 29 cases.

In a June 19 press release, SJBPH announced that both Archuleta and La Plata counties are in the bottom 20 percent of Colorado counties in cases per capita, “despite high growth rates in neighboring counties.”

The agency also announced that there are no outbreaks of COVID-19 among residents at long-term care facilities in either county, though there have been 324 outbreaks elsewhere in Colorado.

Local testing continues

Widespread testing continues to be available in Pagosa Springs through PSMC, Pagosa Medical Group, Archuleta Integrated Health and SJBPH, with SJBPH reporting it has the capacity to follow up on every lab-confirmed positive test with contact tracing, isolation and quarantine resources, and case monitoring.

In a report to the board of the Upper San Juan Health Service District, which oversees PSMC, CEO Dr. Rhonda Webb reported that PSMC will soon be able to provide same-day test results for active virus testing by processing tests on site. 

She noted the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) machine can process 24 tests per 24 hours, with a written report stating, “which means PSMC is able to conduct and provide rapid results to the patient typically within hours.”

She noted that the current turnaround time for testing is about 48 hours.

Webb also reported that PSMC has tested 276 people, with the majority being symptomatic, and has had two positives over the last two weeks.

It was announced last week that the other positive is not a resident of Archuleta County and does not factor in Archuleta County’s cumulative case count.

Webb also cautioned that about 30 percent of tests can provide false negatives due to the amount of viral load needed for the test, and physicians continue to treat a person as if they are positive for COVID-19 if they present as such clinically.

Webb further informed the board that PSMC is on track to be able to provide on-site antibody testing in July, though she cautioned that it remains unknown if antibodies confer immunity or for how long.

She noted that antibodies appear to last about two months after an infection.

Nonresident cases

SJBPH recently reported cases of individuals testing positive for COVID-19 at local testing sites in Archuleta and La Plata counties who are not residents of either county.

Such individuals, a press release from SJBPH notes, are not counted in the agency’s case counts, but “In its efforts to be transparent and provide important information to the communities it serves, SJBPH will continue to share information and data on the prevalence of non-resident COVID-19 transmission, as well as public health precautions to prevent spread of the virus.”

SJBPH reported it has coordinated with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and other public health agencies on the positive COVID-19 cases of nonresidents “to ensure that appropriate isolation and quarantine guidelines are being followed.” 

The June 19 press release states, “In the last 3 weeks, there have been 6 individuals who have tested positive in La Plata and Archuleta counties who are not residents of either county. Non-resident cases were individuals from New Mexico, Arizona, and other counties in Colorado.”

Continued vigilance
encouraged

The press release emphasizes that Archuleta and La Plata counties are tourist destinations and urges residents, businesses and organizations to “remain vigilant to reduce spread of COVID-19.”

The agency recommends avoiding close contact with others by keeping at least 6 feet from other people and remembering that some people without symptoms may be able to spread the virus.

The agency further recommends wearing face coverings when around others, staying home when sick, washing hands frequently or using hand sanitizer if unable to wash hands, cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces daily.

The agency also suggests monitoring your health and watching fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19.

“In its ongoing efforts to protect the health and safety of the residents it serves, the agency stresses the importance of continuing to take strong precautions against the spread of the virus …,” it states.

“We encourage people to use masks when they go out,” Webb told her board after explaining that PSMC will continue to require masks in its facility even after the governor’s order expires that requires a mask in hospitals where elective surgeries are performed.

Regional hospitals have a surge plan in place, Webb reported, with Mercy Regional Medical Center continuing to report that its statistical data shows it will have the capacity to treat the regional intensive care needs, including transfers from PSMC, in the event of a surge.

“As our local economy begins to enter its ‘new normal,’ it is critical that we don’t become complacent in protecting ourselves from the spread of COVID-19,” said Liane Jollon, Executive Director of SJBPH. “The virus is very much still circulating in our residents, traveling workforce, and tourist population and as we’ve seen in neighboring states, it doesn’t take much for case counts to rise rapidly and jeopardize local health care systems if we don’t take social distancing, face covering, hand washing and good workplace cleaning practices seriously. The best way to sustainably reopen our economy is to practice good public health habits at all times.”

randi@pagosasun.com