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Coronavirus Control Strategies Shifting Toward 'Social Distancing'

Mar 12, 2020

Transmission electron microscopic image of an isolate from the first U.S. case of COVID-19, formerly known as 2019-nCoV. The spherical extracellular viral particles contain cross-sections through the viral genome, seen as black dots.
Credit C.S. Goldsmith and A. Tamin / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Coronavirus control strategy at state and county levels is moving toward social distancing, a practice focused on limiting contact between people in efforts to stem transmission. 

That marks a shift away from the previous approach of contact tracing, which aims to identify people who have been in contact with known positive cases of the disease.

“When we just had a few cases, (contract tracing) was a good way to try and reduce the spread of disease,” Jill Ryan, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said in a call with reporters. “But it will at some point, probably in the near future, outweigh our ability to keep up with it.”

Pitkin County intends to make a similar switch.

“We’re really looking at evolving from a containment response to a community mitigation response,” said Karen Koenemann, Pitkin County Public Health director. “Social distancing is one strategy around that.”

Pitkin County has ten presumptive positive cases as of Thursday evening, following the confirmation that an additional Australian traveler in Aspen tested positive after coming in contact with an Australian woman who tested positive upon return to her home country.

The City of Aspen announced a slew of closures to public facilities.

In a separate call with reporters Thursday afternoon, CDPHE incident commander Scott Bookman said the agency believes there is evidence of community transmission in Eagle County. There are 11 presumptive positive cases in that county.

Community transmission refers to a situation in which new cases of the disease do not have identifiable ties to existing positive cases.

Eagle, Garfield and Pitkin Counties all announced a public health order placing restrictions on gatherings of 50 or more people.