Health officials have issued stern warnings with regards to the coronavirus and considering the torrent stream of recent closures and cancellations involving public gatherings of virtually any kind, those warnings have apparently been heard, and heeded.
With social isolation trending sharply up as the first line of defense against the pandemic, a continual stream of cancellations and closures were announced throughout the latter part of the week at national, state and local levels (see article, this issue).
During the two-day period of Thursday and Friday, March 12 and 13, all major professional sports were suspended indefinitely, and college campuses nationwide, including the University of Colorado in Boulder, adopted a remote-only format for conducting classes.
Throughout the day on Friday, local school districts began following suit. Governor Jared Polis also announced Friday that he was encouraging the cancellation of large public gatherings of over 250 people. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock also declared a public health emergency and promptly banned all events at city-owned facilities through April 12.
By week’s end, the impacts of the pandemic were clearly no longer just an international or national story. And virtually overnight, before a single case of the virus was ever reported in Park County, the coronavirus pandemic had altered the everyday routines of virtually every citizen in The Flume coverage area.
Even for experienced health professionals, weighing risks with regards to a pandemic virus is a perilously inexact science. There are, however, many well-established, practical precautions that can be taken to prevent the spread of disease, pandemic or otherwise.
At home, for example, practice good hygiene by cleaning hands at regular intervals. Develop habits and reminders to avoid touching your face, and cover coughs and sneezes. Disinfect surfaces like doorknobs, tables and handrails regularly.
Households with vulnerable seniors, or those with members who might have underlying health conditions, should be especially vigilant.
Healthy members of such households should conduct themselves to protect seniors and those with underlying conditions. Always wash hands before interacting with such individuals, especially before feeding or caring for them. If possible, provide a protected space for vulnerable household members, and ensure that all utensils and surface areas are cleaned regularly.
In the workplace, all the same hygiene practices apply. Be especially careful with regards to meetings and travel. Use videoconferencing for meetings when possible. When not possible, hold meetings in open, well-ventilated spaces. Consider adjusting or postponing meetings or gatherings, and always carefully assess the risks of travel.
The Park County website, which can be accessed at www.parkco.us, provides extensive information pertaining to the coronavirus. The site offers the following information for those who believe they are suffering COVID-19 symptoms from the coronavirus:
If you have COVID-19 symptons, first call a health care provider, clinic or hospital.
The healthcare provider will assess your illness on the phone and provide information or guidance for you, household members, and other close contacts.
Testing for the coronavirus is not a routine test.
The healthcare provider will assess your symptoms and risk for the disease based on guidance from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
The provider will give you instructions on whether you need to be tested and on where to go to receive your examination.
People who have general questions about the coronavirus disease can call CO HELP at 303-389-1687 or 1-877-462-2911 for answers in many languages. Email COHELP@RMPDC.org for answers in English.
Coloradans can also visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov, or the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment website at www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/2019-novel-coronavirus for more information or best practices.
Those with upcoming travel plans can also visit the CDC’s website for the latest travel information.
Case reports; Park County preparedness
As of Monday, March 16, no cases of the coronavirus had been reported in Park County, according to Gene Stanley, director of Park County Emergency Services.
There have been cases reported in surrounding counties, however, such as Jefferson (12 cases), Summit County (one case), Clear Creek County (one case) and Boulder County (three cases).
Of the 22 Colorado counties reporting cases of the coronavirus, only four were reporting cases in double digits. Denver County had reported 24 cases of the coronavirus as of Sunday, Eagle County had reported 22, Arapahoe had reported 15 and Jefferson County had reported 23.
Also as of Sunday, one Colorado death had been reported as a result of the virus and 131 cases had been reported statewide.
Many Colorado counties have declared states of emergency, but Park County will likely not be among them unless a case within the county is reported.
“A lot of counties have declared a state of emergency even though there has been no emergency,” Stanley noted. “But we will not do so unless a case is reported here in Park County, in which case we too would declare a state of emergency.”
Stanley, who has been working in emergency management-related occupations for more than 40 years, continued.
“We have things in place in the event that the virus reaches us, and we have established an executive committee of members who represent various departments and agencies throughout the county.
“The nine-member committee consists of two public health officials, two county administrators, a member of the Park County Sheriff’s Office and others related to emergency management. We want to keep the committee small so that we can control communication and protect against false information, and there has been a lot of false information out there.”
Stanley said the committee, which was assembled specifically for the purposes of preparing and responding to the coronavirus pandemic, encompasses all of the primary entities that would be required to coordinate and communicate in the event of a county-wide crisis.
Stanley said false information and overreaction combine to produce negative results, and that staying calm is essential in the proper management of any emergency situation. He also stated, however, that the coronavirus will very likely make its way to Park County.
“It probably is inevitable that cases will eventually be reported in Park County because we are such a mobile society today,” Stanley said.
“Many of us travel out of the county in places where cases have been reported, and people from other places travel to Park County. So it probably is inevitable, even though we have no cases reported as of yet.”
Stanley said preparation and common sense are the best defenses against a pandemic scare.
“I am not taking this lightly at all, because this is a serious situation. But it is important to remember that the common flu takes about 20,000 lives a year, and we manage not to panic about that. So we shouldn’t panic about this, either.”