As concern grows over infectious diseases here and across the country, local first responders urged residents to remain calm but be cautious.
Rob Goodwin, Chief of the Carbondale and Rural Fire Protection District, and his team remain on the front lines of any and all emergencies.
With frequent meetings with federal, state, county and local health and crisis management organizations, the department stays abreast of all updates and attends regular meetings.
“What we’ve all been calling COVID-19 or coronavirus is variation of the cold viruses we see each year. These viruses never go away, they just change and keep circling the globe,” Goodwin noted, “We need to constantly change and adjust to the situation at hand.”
Colorado Governor Jared Polis declared a state of emergency after a recent jump in the number of confirmed cases of the virus, urging residents to prepare as if a big winter storm were forecast.
If someone needs an ambulance, the fire department takes the call and advises the trained first responders including Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) or paramedics. Both professions require extensive training, with paramedic certification requiring significantly more education. Triage begins when the department receives a call requesting emergency transport.
“At that time we ask what the problem is, what are the person’s symptoms, has the person travelled outside the United States,” Godwin explained, “Then we can determine what precautions the responders need to take.”
Protective gear is stored inside each ambulance including hospital gowns, masks and gloves for situations which may indicate a serious infectious disease and warrant emergency intervention. The department has faced other national epidemics including a normal flu year, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Norovirus — a very contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea — and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
Kelsy Been, Roaring Fork School public information officer, reported the district has formed a task force with representatives of public health organizations within Garfield and nearby counties. “We are all coordinated,” Been said. “Our school-based health departments are well aware of the possible symptoms.”
The district has also advised parents that it is staying diligent with flu and cold season cleaning practices like using hospital-grade disinfectant sprayed on all surfaces.
Although many people have mild symptoms and recover quickly, COVID-19 can be deadly. The average mortality rate from COVID-19 hovers around 3.4 percent but can skyrocket to 15 percent for people over 80. People with underlying health conditions — including heart disease, lung disease and diabetes — are at higher risk as well.
Signs of the disease usually appear two to 14 days after exposure and include severe shortness of breath, dry cough and fever. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through the Colorado State Public Health Department, emphasized “Like any other virus, no identity, community, ethnic or racial group in Colorado is more at risk for getting or spreading COVID-19.”
According to the Garfield County Department of Public Health, there are three circumstances that my prompt testing: If you have signs or symptoms of COVID-19 infection such as fever, cough and shortness of breath and have been in close contact with someone confirmed with COVID-19; if you have signs or symptoms of COVID-19 infection and you have recently traveled to parts of the world where infection rates are high or community spread is occurring such as China, Italy and South Korea or if you have severe respiratory illness that requires hospitalization and other diagnoses such as influenza have been ruled out.
More detailed information is available at cdc.gov or by calling 303-389-1687. People who are symptomatic and have traveled to affected areas or have been in contact with a known patient can call the CDPHE general epidemiology hotline at 303-692-2700 or 877-462-2911. In a critical health emergency, call 911.