Coronavirus in Colorado: Eagle County case brings count to eight confirmed cases

Nate Peterson, Vail Daily News

A woman in her 50s visiting Eagle County is among the six new presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 identified Friday in Colorado. The woman was exposed to the new coronavirus during international travel. All eight patients who have tested positive for the coronavirus in Colorado are being kept in isolation.

In response to the spread of the virus, Vail Health has begun screening patients prior to entrance into the Vail hospital.

The patient in Eagle County was not hospitalized and is recovering in isolation. The patient is working with public health officials in the ongoing investigation to identify people who may have had close exposure. The case is presumptive positive, which means test results haven’t yet been confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Latest from schools

The Eagle County Department of Public Health and Environment also announced Friday that a potential patient connected to Eagle County Schools returned a negative test.

On Wednesday, after Eagle County Schools learned that the CDC had changed its guidelines on travel from Italy, Iran, and South Korea, it alerted students and staff members from Battle Mountain High School who had traveled to Italy in February.

“Consequently, our students and staff who went on the trip to Italy will need to stay home for the remainder of their self-monitoring period, which ends at 6 am on Saturday, as long as they are symptom-free,” read an email sent to Battle Mountain students and parents. “These students have been complying with the prior CDC protocol of self-monitoring for symptoms. One of the symptoms is fever, a condition that requires students and staff to stay home until they have been fever-free for 24-hours without the aid of medication anyway. With that in mind, we believe asking them to remain at home for the next few days is a technical requirement and nothing for concern. Symptoms may still develop and we are prepared with a response plan should it be necessary.”

In a news release, Eagle County Schools Superintendent Phil Qualman wrote “the patient’s parent emailed several other parents and staff members this news, connecting the case to our school system. The results of other tests in the county, none related to our schools, are still pending.

“There are many people in Eagle County who traveled to/from countries that have experienced COVID-19 outbreaks in recent weeks. Some are students and teachers in our system. Those in our system have all followed the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Eagle County Department of Public Health (Public Health) to self-monitor for COVID19 symptoms, fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.”

According to Vail Mountain School athletic director Bobby Ecker, the Class 2A Region 8 Basketball Tournament was also moved from East Vail to Idaho Springs by the Colorado High School Activities Association, the governing body of high school sports in the state. VMS basketball was scheduled to host the tournament for the first time in school history on Friday and Saturday. However, CHSAA, according to Ecker, moved the tournament from the Vail Mountain School to Clear Creek High School due to concerns about the coronavirus.

‘Our resorts are fully open’

On Thursday afternoon, a man tested positive for coronavirus in Summit County, the first known case of the disease in Colorado. During his time in the state, he skied at both Vail and Keystone.

Vail Resorts released a statement Friday morning, which said, in part:

“The health and wellbeing of our guests and employees is our top priority and we will continue to take all appropriate precautions. We have asked all employees to follow the recommendations from the CDC. Our resorts are fully open and operating normally.”

Colorado and Summit County public health officials have been hard at work in a process called “contact tracing,” essentially trying to backtrack through the patient’s steps during his time in the area to identify individuals who came in close contact with him and determine whether they might have been exposed to the virus.

According to officials, the patient likely didn’t interact closely with many people after he began showing symptoms. He flew into Denver International Airport from California on Feb. 29 and drove a rental car to Summit County. Throughout his travels, he was asymptomatic and extremely unlikely to have spread the disease, officials said.

He first began showing initial symptoms Monday, March 2, a day he was skiing at Vail Mountain, according to Dan Hendershott, Summit County’s environmental health manager. He returned to his rental unit in Keystone and was sick the next day. On Wednesday, March 4, he was informed that a travel companion with whom he recently went to Italy had been diagnosed with COVID-19, and he reached out directly to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to inform them he might have contracted the disease.

He checked into St. Anthony Summit Medical Center later that day. Summit County officials have since lauded the man for taking steps to mitigate the potential spread of the illness. He was driven down to the Front Range by his fiancee, and he is currently recovering in isolation. His fiancee and two Denver friends with whom he was staying in Summit County have all been quarantined, as well.

Also on Friday, a clinic in Melbourne, Australia, closed after a doctor who’d recently traveled to Vail from Denver, via Los Angeles, tested positive for the virus.

According to multiple news outlets in Australia, the doctor returned to Melbourne from the United States on the morning of February 29 after spending 12 days in the United States.

COVID-19 in Colorado

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s state lab said tt least five of the eight confirmed cases, including the Eagle County patient, had an international travel history. The state is coordinating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on flights that may have had a COVID-19 case.  

The health department is releasing the following information about the other six cases of COVID-19 in Colorado. 

Denver County

  • One case in a man in his 40s. The investigation is ongoing. 
  • One case in a woman in her 70s, exposed during international travel.

Douglas County

  • One case in a school-aged female, exposed during international travel.
  • One case in a woman in her 40s, exposed during international travel. 
  • One case in a woman in her 70s, exposed during international travel. 

El Paso County

  • One case in a man in his 40s. The investigation is ongoing.

Slowing the spread of virus

This week, the state laboratory expanded testing guidelines to ensure early detection —and slow down and limit transmission. 

“The increase in positive tests is not unexpected, and based on the experience of other states, the public health and health care systems have been preparing for additional cases,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, a former Eagle County Commissioner who is now the executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

There is currently no vaccine or treatment for COVID-19. Eagle County Public Health and its partners will focus their response efforts on slowing the spread of the disease, which will require the community’s assistance. 

Although more than 80% of people who have contracted COVID-19 have relatively mild illness, there are greater risks for complications among older adults, especially above the age of 80 years, as well as people with pre-existing health conditions.  

Identification of the first case in Eagle County is an important indicator. Health officials are reminding residents and guests that the individual precautions they can take to limit their exposure are the same precautions that can help slow the spread of COVID-19  within the community.  These precautions will also help protect people in our community who may be at greatest risk for complications if they get infected.

Protect yourself

  • Wash your hands regularly, especially before eating or touching your mouth and nose.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • If you are sick, stay home.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

What to do if you’re sick

  • Stay home if you develop a fever, cough or shortness of breath. 
  • Wear a mask or cover your cough and sneeze.
  • Wash your hands frequently and don’t share personal items (drinking glass or utensils) with others.
  • Call your healthcare provider. Do not show up at a clinic, urgent care or the emergency department unannounced.
  • Your doctor’s office will assess your illness on the phone and provide information or guidance for you, household members, and other close contacts.
  • Testing for COVID-19 is not a routine test. Your healthcare provider will assess your symptoms and risk for the disease based on guidance from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.  
  • Since many of the illnesses are mild, we expect most COVID-19 patients will be isolated in their own home to rest and recover. If possible, sleep in a bedroom and use a bathroom that is not used by other household members.
  • There is no antiviral treatment for COVID-19. Getting rest and drinking plenty of fluids will likely be helpful for recovery. Only the most critically ill will be hospitalized.

Public Health officials also recommend residents prepare for an emergency that might require them to stay at home for several days, including having food supplies, water and medications.

Those with questions about COVID-19 can call the CO HELP Hotline at 1-877-462-2911. Updates or changes in guidance will be posted to

This story includes reporting from the Summit Daily News and Vail Daily reporters Pam Boyd and Chris Freud.

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