UPDATE: Three confirmed cases in Gunnison County as of 1 p.m. March 12.
Two confirmed cases but more expected
By Kendra Walker
Update: As of 1 p.m. March 12, Health and Human Services director Joni Reynolds says, “We have three positive cases in Gunnison County. Ten tests that are pending, but we don’t have timing on when those tests will be back from the state.” According to the state’s report, the new positive case in Gunnison County is a woman in her 40s whose exposure was recent travel.
The first two positive cases of the coronavirus, or COVID-19, have been confirmed in Gunnison County as of Wednesday, March 11 but more may be on the way as one Denver County resident treated at Gunnison Valley Hospital (GVH) tested positive and at least five others are showing symptoms of the virus but do not yet have test results.
The positive cases were announced Wednesday in Gunnison County involving two separate females in their 50s, both residents of Gunnison County. According to Gunnison County Health and Human Services, each case involved getting exposed while traveling and they have self-isolated at their individual homes. According to Health and Human Services director Joni Reynolds, the self-isolation/quarantine must last a minimum of 14 days. If symptoms have not resolved within that period, the isolation will be extended. Another 24 hours of quarantine is then required once symptoms have resolved.
The cases are undergoing investigation by health officials to determine who may have come in close contact with the patient. The Crested Butte News asked for more details surrounding the case, including where the patients were traveling, how long they have been back in Gunnison County and whether they had attended any recent local events that might have exposed them to large crowds. Reynolds could not provide any information and said Health and Human Services is unable to share that data at this time as they work with the state in investigating the cases.
During a Wednesday evening press conference, Colorado Governor Jared Polis advised against unnecessary travel to resort and mountain communities, particularly for individuals who are over the age of 60 or who have chronic conditions. This advisory is due to the number of people traveling back and forth from resort communities to other parts of the state and the disproportion of the virus hitting the high country communities first based on the positive state numbers. “This will get worse before it gets better in Colorado,” said Polis.
On March 10, Gunnison County initially announced a different positive COVID-19 case of a female in her 40s as the first in Gunnison County, but later reclassified it as a Denver case. The patient visited Gunnison County and was treated and released from GVH, but resides in Denver. She is no longer in Gunnison County and is being monitored in Denver.
Reynolds also confirmed on Wednesday afternoon there are at least five other individuals in Gunnison County with clinical symptoms and travel history indicating a risk for COVID-19. Their test results have been submitted to the state lab for testing, she said, and Health and Human Services anticipates more presumptive positive cases moving forward.
The number of COVID-19 presumptive cases statewide has reached 33 as of Wednesday afternoon, and Colorado governor Jared Polis has declared a state of emergency. Those 33 cases include the following counties: Gunnison, Arapahoe, Jefferson, Pitkin, Larimer, Denver, Douglas, Eagle, El Paso and Summit. The state lab has run approximately 300 tests since it began testing on February 28. Official confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are still pending for all 33 Colorado presumptive cases.
The Crested Butte Community School notified families on Wednesday of updated restrictions, including that parents/guardians will not be allowed to accompany their child to cubbies or lockers at morning drop off and must wait outside for students after school. Students must be picked up and dropped off in the office only during the school day and items brought to the school for a student must be brought to the office. Classroom volunteers, presenters and visitors at lunchtime are not allowed until further notice.
Western Colorado University announced a restriction on international university-sponsored travel for the rest of the academic year, as well as all non-essential university-business-related travel to states in a state of emergency. Western has also asked students to avoid Spring Break travel to countries with Levels 2 and 3 Health Notice, and has begun making provisions for online real-time classes if needed.
GVH is currently prohibiting all visitations to the Senior Care Center and Assisted Living, due to the senior population being the most vulnerable and at risk of exposure to and transmitting the virus. “During this time, we will be limiting out of facility transport to essential appointments only,” said an update on the GVH website. “We are monitoring this situation daily and encourage family members to call their loved ones to maintain contact during this time.”
“My number one message is for folks to remain calm,” said Reynolds. “Like a lot of viruses, people will see this virus affect individuals who will do fine, like during a typical cold and flu season when people get sick and stay home and care for themselves. I think that’s what we’re going to see with COVID-19 and we need to look at those individuals with higher risk and help protect them, closely monitor and be certain they’re getting medical care they need.”
A release from the county Health and Human Services office stated, “Please note, more than 80 percent of people who have been exposed or contracted COVID-19 will experience a relatively mild illness. Most people will be able to self-treat with over the counter cold medication at home. There are greater risks for complications among older adults, especially above the age of 80 years, as well as people with underlying health conditions (heart disease, diabetes, lung conditions, etc.). Individuals who have a severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing are encouraged to call Gunnison Dispatch at (970) 641-8201.”
GVH says people worried about experiencing symptoms should not show up unannounced at the Emergency Room or doctor’s office. “If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus), including fever, cough or shortness of breath and recently traveled, or have been in contact with someone who has traveled, please do NOT come to the emergency department. For those experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, a local dedicated call center has been established during the hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week. Please call 970-641-7660 to schedule a swab test at your home. Until you receive your results, you will be encouraged to self-isolate.”
Reynolds also said Health and Human Services is looking at setting up an alternate test site in the county, and is currently working with the state for resources to get that set up.
Updates will be posted on www.gunnisoncounty.org/938/COVID-19 or get more info by calling the Gunnison County Health Hotline 970-641-7660. CO HELP is the state’s COVID-19 call line at 303-389-1687 or 1-877-462-2911.