County discusses coronavirus

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by Marissa Lorenz

Discussion of COVID-19, better known as the novel coronavirus, reached the halls of Grand County Government this week, as the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) asked for conversation with Grand County Public Health following a public statement from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) confirming “14 cases diagnosed in the United States, in addition to 39 cases among repatriated persons from high-risk settings,” and that “the U.S. government and public health partners are implementing aggressive measures to slow and contain transmission” of the virus in the U.S.

Public Health Director Brene Belew-LaDue workshopped with the Board, explaining that the department has several emergency preparedness and response plans already in place for a number of different scenarios. Subsequent to the meeting, Commissioner Rich Cimino stated that there is ongoing preparation within the county and that steps are already being taken by Public Health. “Grand County Public Health is communicating on a daily basis with the state about current risk and steps for prevention and preparedness.”

Abbie Baker, Grand County Public Health Administration and Program Manager, confirmed that they were “working closely with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and the CDC in order to monitor risk and activity in the world, in the U.S., and in Colorado.” She emphasized that there are currently NO known cases of COVID-19 in Colorado and that the risks for the state continue to be low. Those at greatest risk are those who have recently traveled from China or who have been in close contact with someone who has had a confirmed diagnosis.

Grand County Public Health put out their most recent Public Health Update on Monday, explaining that “Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are associated with respiratory illness that result in fever, cough and shortness of breath. These viruses spread through coughing or sneezing, much like the flu. Some coronaviruses are common and regularly cause illness in the U.S. in the fall and winter. Other coronaviruses like Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) have caused outbreaks internationally in the past and have been known to cause severe illness. We do not know yet how severe 2019 Novel Coronavirus is compared to other coronaviruses or how easily it can spread between humans.”

The update goes on to strongly advise, “There are many types of coronaviruses currently circulating in Colorado and the U.S. that cause respiratory illness. These illnesses are NOT COVID-19.”

Baker encourages all to take up everyday measures that are known to reduce the risk of any respiratory virus. She reminds residents to:

• Wash hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub when soap and water is not available
• Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing
• Avoid close contact with anyone who is expressing signs of illness
• And to Stay Home if you are sick.

Baker indicates that our Public Health office will continue to keep up-to-date with the illness and will provide updates to the community. She also encourages use of online resources such as the CDC at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/novel-coronavirus-2019. html and the World Health Organization at www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019 for the most recent information.

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