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PitCo Receives 1,000 New Tests, Aspen Valley Hospital Seeing 'Stable And Small' Patient Volume

Apr 9, 2020

Gabe Muething, Aspen Ambulance District director and member of the Pitkin County Incident Management Team, shares an update on the county's order of 1,000 new COVID-19 blood tests.
Credit Screenshot from GrassRoots TV

Pitkin County has received its shipment of 1,000 new COVID-19 blood tests. Officials said they “still have a bit of a process” before the tests are released for use by the public and did not specify who will be eligible for testing. In Thursday's online community meeting, the county said does not plan to charge for the tests and will use them to gather data about the presence of the virus in the community.

The tests were ordered yesterday from Englewood, Colo.-based Atyu Bioscience. They test for virus antibodies using a blood droplet from a finger prick and can produce a result in less than 10 minutes.

Dave Muething, Aspen Ambulance District director, said the tests are not a “silver bullet,” but are the start of a process that leads to the “metering” of restrictions and public health orders.

Karen Koenemann, Pitkin County public health director, said patient volumes at Aspen Valley Hospital are a sign that those restrictions and orders are working. She cited low mortality numbers in the county and the absence of a surge at the hospital as evidence.

“What you all are doing collectively and following the public health order is making a difference in this community,” Koenemann said.

"What you all are doing collectively and following the public health order is making a difference in this community."

Koenemann also expressed sympathy for residents' frustration, anger and confusion.

“I don’t blame anyone in this community for having any of those thoughts and feelings because this is a place none of us have been before,” she said.

Dave Ressler, Aspen Valley Hospital CEO, said they are still seeing a relatively “stable and small” volume of patients with COVID-19 symptoms in the hospital and evaluation tent. Three patients are currently hospitalized with symptoms. All of them are staying in “negative pressure rooms,” which use airflow to contain contaminants. 

The hospital currently has eight of those rooms, and its surge plan allows for the creation of up to six more. Due to the cancellation of elective surgeries, the hospital can increase its capacity of available ventilators from four to eight.

Ressler said no new patients required ventilators in the week since last Thursday’s meeting, an update he called “fantastic news.”

Ressler also emphasized the importance of protecting the hospital’s workforce to maintain medical operations. He said 20-25 employees, or about 4-7% of the hospital’s workforce, are sidelined with COVID-19 symptoms. About half of those people do not work in clinical roles and can work from home.

Valley View Hospital released its latest patient volume data on Thursday. Out of 241 specimens collected at the hospital, 26 returned positive and 10 are still pending. 14 patients have been admitted to the Glenwood Springs hospital since the outbreak began and 11 of them have been discharged.