When a Park County resident is discovered to be suffering from COVID-19 symptoms, treatment, isolation and transportation to a neighboring county with hospital beds is required.
Each of these measures require considerable time and expense, but that’s just the beginning for those who work within the Park County Public Health Department.
Their job requires that they begin a process closely akin to detective work called “contact tracing,” whereby a registered nurse contacts the infected individual and performs an intensive, confidential case investigation.
According to Park County Public Health Director Lynn Ramey, the standard contact tracing investigation entails:
1. An assessment of the person’s symptoms, other health conditions, and questions to determine where the individual may have been exposed.
2. The RN determines if the person has household contacts, workplace contacts and other places that the person may have been in close contact with others.
3. The RN identifies close contacts and follows up with those individuals to determine if any of them are experiencing symptoms.
4. Positive individuals and close contacts with symptoms are placed in home isolation and close contacts without symptoms are placed in quarantine.
5. The RN follows up with these individuals during the isolation or quarantine period and determines when the individual can be released from isolation or quarantine according to guidelines from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Investigating COVID-19 cases is obviously new to Park County Public Health officials, but according to Ramey, the processes involved in contact tracing are really nothing new at all.
“We perform confidential contact investigations for many types of diseases, including measles, pertussis or whooping cough, and tuberculosis,” Ramey said.
As one might imagine, investigations of this nature can expand rapidly. Family friends, and, in many cases, coworkers and employers must be notified and interviewed.
“If the positive person works in another county, or has contacts in another county, the state epidemiologist notifies that county so that county staff can continue interviewing contacts,” Ramey explained.
“Our staff will also work with employers in our county if it is determined there may have been exposure to the virus at a workplace site.”
The painstaking processes involved in contact tracing, as exhaustive as they might be, are a necessary practice to prevent the continuing spread of disease during any type of health pandemic.
According to Ramey, her staff of medical professionals has been diligent in their contact tracing efforts in the wake of the coronavirus.
“Contact tracing can take a lot of time and effort, but Park County Public Health is committed to continuing extensive contact tracing processes to protect the health and safety of the community,” Ramey said.
“We ask citizens to follow the ‘Safer at Home’ guidelines from the governor, and continue to wear a face covering when out in public.”
Park County offices reopen
While the Park County Public Health Department continues its ongoing investigations into COVID-19 cases, there are signs of progress as Park County Public offices were reopened, with some restrictions, as of Monday.
The following announcement was posted on www.parkco.us regarding restrictions and requirements associated with the resumption of normal business hours.
“Effective Monday, May 11, 2020, the County will reopen to the public and resume its normal business hours of Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. with the following requirements:
• Citizens will continue to use robust on-line services.
• Citizens will continue to use curbside services.
• Citizens will continue to make in-person appointments.
• For detailed instructions citizens should refer to individual departments’ web page or call the department directly.
• No more than 10 people will be allowed into any office building at one time.
• Our employees will be protecting themselves and the public by wearing masks/face coverings and ensuring sanitation.
• Citizens will be required to have a mask/face covering over the nose and mouth at all times while in the building.
• Citizens must adhere to social distancing requirements.
• Restrooms in the building provide hand washing options and hand sanitizer.
• Citizens will not be allowed to wander the building. Citizens must leave immediately upon completing their business.
“The Board of County Commissioners will continue to conduct work sessions and regular meetings in a virtual platform until further notice.”
A total of 15 COVID-19 cases have been reported since the outbreak began. In Park County, 13 of those suffering symptoms have been officially released, while two remain active.