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Are testing and tracing for the virus enough?

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Neither Carbondale nor Basalt have ordinances requiring a business to close if it has a specific number of positive COVID-19 test results from employees. And Garfield and Eagle counties don’t either.

“That’s because each business has a different set of circumstances,” explained Garfield County Chief Communications Officer Renelle Lott.

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According to a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) spokesperson, “Businesses should report outbreaks to their local public health agency and work with them to identify and mitigate outbreaks and determine how a business can safely reopen.”

Carbondale Town Manager Jay Harrington added that “Garfield County Public Health is the entity that issues health orders for all of the county and provides contact tracing and noticing for quarantine and isolation requests.They have been really responsive when local businesses have reached out for direction.” 

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He said that the three valley counties — Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield — are working together to get through this crisis.

Eagle County Communications Manager Justin Patrick explained, “When a positive COVID-19 test result is determined, public health officials contact the health care provider that evaluated and tested the patient.

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A public health worker then contacts the patient regarding the test results and begins gathering information about how the patient may have contracted the virus. Fortunately, we have received a high degree of cooperation and participation from our community.”

Basalt Town Manager Ryan Mahoney gave high marks to Eagle County. “Everyone has been very responsive and very helpful. We are taking an educational approach” with the public.

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Mahoney noted, “ There is not a mandate to close a business just because an employee tests positive for COVID-19. The logic is that if employees were practicing social distancing and using a face covering, thir risk of infection is greatly reduced and therefore no need to quarantine.”

Counties get results from all positive tests and, in those cases, can require a 14 day “isolation” period for the affected person. People who have been exposed to the virus by being in close contact with a positive person, are also asked to self quarantine.

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The term “close contact” has been described as a household member, intimate partner, someone that may have shared a drinking glass or eating utensil or been within six feet of a person who is sick for 10 minutes. At City Market in El Jebel, four employees tested positive. According to Eagle County officials, the virus was passed on at one of the workers’ graduation celebration and not at the store. Fifty people who were exposed were quarantined. The supermarket remained open.
King Soopers CIty Market Division’s Jessica Trowbridge of Corporate Affairs stressed the company has strict social distancing and face covering policies. “We are taking this quite seriously and have also cut store customer capacity by 50 percent.”

At Heather’s Savory Pies & Tapas Bar in Basalt, Heather Lujan came down with severe symptoms. She was rushed to the emergency room at Aspen Valley Hospital where she tested positive for the virus. Heather’s closed immediately.

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Tracing and testing are presently handled by each county’s public health department with being symptomatic as the primary criteria for COVID-19 testing. Valley View and Aspen Valley Hospital are authorized to do the testing along with other health care providers.

Testing is provided for people with COVID-19 symptoms such as shortness of breath, fever, fatigue, loss of taste or smell and other warning signs.

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Garfield County public health nurse Theresa Carey described the tracing procedures that start with investigating the positive individual and asking where he or she works and whether it is considered a high risk place of employment. Questions include where co-workers live and if the person has recently been in close contact with family or friends.

Experts agree a person can be infected for up to 14 days before symptoms appear. During that time period, a person is still able to pass on the virus.

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Carey urged everyone to keep their immune systems healthy, including staying up to date with recommended vaccines. She suggested calling family physicians or asking pharmacists to check recorded immunizations.

She added that pneumonia, shingles, and other illnesses can negatively impact immune systems and lower resistance to COVID-19.

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