Grand response: Efforts to combat virus ramp up with confirmed case in county
UPDATE: Drive-thru testing at the Grand Lake Center is being suspended due to a forecasted storm.
A coronavirus response site opened at the Grand Lake Center on Tuesday, the same day Grand County announced its first confirmed case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
On Tuesday, Grand County Public Health confirmed a county resident tested positive for COVID-19 after receiving test results from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
The health department said it is working on quarantine measures for the individual, which include trying to identify and contacting any other people who may have been exposed to COVID-19.
The only information being shared at this time is that the patient has been on self-quarantine since the day before being tested. The patient was tested on March 12. As the investigation continues, the health department said it would share any additional information related to health risks to the general public.
In an effort to ramp up the county’s coronavirus response, Middle Park Health, in conjunction with the Grand Lake Fire Department, the town of Grand Lake and Grand County officials, set up a site capable of drive-thru evaluations.
Seeing what’s happened at drive-thru testing facilities in Denver, Middle Park Health is requiring patients get a doctor’s recommendation before heading over to the Grand Lake Center so that the site isn’t overwhelmed.
If a doctor recommends a patient get a test at the Grand Lake Center, they will also be asked screening questions at the site before being given any tests.
If tests are determined necessary, the patient will be tested in his or her car at the site for flu and RSV, a respiratory virus.
Once those results come back — typically a 10 minute process — medical staff at the site will decide if the patient needs a COVID-19 test.
“(Tests) are limited in the mountain communities,” Tiffany Freitag, director of community relations for Middle Park Health said. “They’re limited in general.”
Currently, the site is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and should remain open through Friday. However, the hours may change as the situation evolves. Patients will be billed for the flu and RSV tests as normal, but there will be no cost for a COVID-19 test.
On Monday, The Grand Lake Board of Trustees held an emergency meeting that was moved into a larger room with enough space to set audience member’s chairs about six feet apart, a precaution to combat the spread of the disease.
COVID-19 hotline: 970-725-3755
Some of the biggest news to emerge from the meeting was the consolidation of Grand County’s coronavirus response into an emergency operations center, not unlike those created to combat wildfires, and that the county’s response to the coronavirus has been elevated to tier four.
Explaining what that means, Schelly Olson, a spokeswoman for the operations center, said the county is recommending region wide social spacing, including the closure of all schools. All Grand County offices are closed to the public with limited services online and over the telephone.
County employees are still reporting to work, but county department heads are determining their necessary staff to reduce the number of people in the same room at a time.
County commissioners meetings are still being live streamed on the county’s website, co.grand.co.us, and county officials are offering the following advice to anyone who thinks he or she may have COVID-19.
“Anyone who is sick or thinks they may have the virus needs to contact their health provider,” Olson said. “Their health provider will triage them, give them guidance on whether or not they need to stay home and self-quarantine, or whether or not they need a test.”
Echoing Middle Park Health, Olson noted that Grand County has an extremely limited supply of testing kits, like much of the state and the nation.
During a Monday conference call, state officials acknowledged blind spots in mountain communities and said they don’t yet know how widespread COVID-19 is in the High Country because of a lack of testing.
They mentioned testing sites were coming soon to Telluride and Routt County, along with mobile testing sites to hit hotspots as they crop up. However, testing remains limited throughout the state. As of Monday, results for the COVID-19 test were taking roughly four days to come back.
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