Public health officials say it's likely more cases of coronavirus will be identified across the state in the coming days.
In a briefing Monday, Pitkin County health officials stressed the importance of staying informed with reliable sources of information. More information on their website addresses frequently asked questions, gives advice on preparedness and offers guidelines to those in industries from health care to hospitality.
What are the symptoms of the coronavirus?
According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fever and shortness of breath or other respiratory problems like a cough, are symptoms of COVID-19. Those can appear anywhere from two days to two weeks after the virus is contracted.
The severity of the symptoms vary. Many people experience mild symptoms, but the virus can be much more serious for the elderly or for people with other immune system issues.
How does the coronavirus spread?
The primary cause is person-to-person. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, respiratory droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
COVID-19 may also be contracted by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.
If a person suspects that they have coronavirus, why shouldn't they go right to the doctor?
Pitkin County Public Health advises residents to call their primary care physician before going to a clinic. That’s meant to help limit the spread of the disease and try to keep resources and doctors available. People who are symptomatic and have traveled to affected areas or have been in contact with a known patient can also call the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment hotline at 303-692-2700.
There are standards for who can receive a test for the virus. People must have symptoms associated with the virus, and have had contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case, or have recently traveled to an area with a high rate of infection. Testing is also for health care workers who are showing symptoms or for people with severe respiratory illness, like pneumonia, that doesn’t have some other explanation.
What do I do if I think I might have the virus?
According to the CDPHE:
- The person should abstain from all public gatherings.
- The person should increase distance from close contacts. Six feet is a distance that reduces risk of transmission of the virus, spread mainly through coughing and sneezing.
- The person should continue to practice basic hygiene like hand-washing with soap and water; in the absence of soap and water, use hand-sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol; cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash; avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- The person should call a medical provider or nursing line BEFORE going into a health facility.
If instructed to seek care, follow the precautionary advice of the medical provider BEFORE going into any health facility. The medical provider will evaluate the patient and determine if testing is needed for influenza, other respiratory illness, and COVID-19.
If a patient needs to be tested for COVID-19, the medical provider will collect a specimen from the patient’s nose and throat and send the samples to the state lab or a commercial lab that is capable of doing COVID-19 testing.
The state is expecting 700 more test kits from the CDC, and it currently has 900.The state lab has the capacity to do 160 COVID-19 tests per day.
How can local residents prepare?
Pitkin County is asking people to sign up for Pitkin Alerts for text message updates. To recieve specific coronavirus information, text the number 888-777 and write CVIRUS in the message.
Officials also are stressing everyday prevention measures, like washing your hands with soap for at least twenty seconds and using hand-sanitizer, staying home when sick and at least 24 hours after your symptoms end, keeping sick kids home and covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough.
More information about preparing your household can be found from the Centers for Disease Control.
Should people limit going out in public?
If it’s possible, employers should consider letting people work from home, according to Pitkin County health officials.
They added that, from a public health perspective at least, if there was community transmission (which occurs when the virus can't be traced to a source because its so widespread) that could trigger more intervention from the state as well as more widespread cancellations. But for now, they're emphasizing everyday prevention measures, and say that proper hand-washing is the best way to stop the spread of the virus.