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State and local health departments say the risk to the general public is low for novel coronavirus in Colorado
Contact: Amy Wineland, Public Health Director, 970-668-9195
SUMMIT COUNTY, CO – With recent cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) reported in several countries, including the United States, Summit County Public Health officials are watchful for potential cases.
"COVID-19 is a serious global public health threat, but the immediate risk in our community remains low," Summit County Public Health Director Amy Wineland said.
The worldwide number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise, with over 82,000 cases globally, but there have been no confirmed cases in Summit County or any other locations in Colorado. CDPHE is taking the lead in coordinating response efforts with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and is in close contact with local public health agencies like Summit County Public Health to provide updates, situational awareness and notification of potential investigations.
Summit County Public Health (SCPH) considers any new infectious disease a serious concern and has been diligently monitoring the situation for the past few months and preparing to take precautions should COVID-19 become more widespread. Locally, SCPH is coordinating guidance with partners in the hospital system; educating health care providers about what to look for and facilitating quick diagnosis of potential cases; educating schools and child care programs; and reaching out to the public about general best practices to reduce the spread of infectious diseases.
"Based on experiences from past disease outbreaks – including outbreaks of related coronaviruses – we know that identifying cases quickly and responding to them effectively is the key to limiting and stopping the spread of disease," Wineland said. "Rapid response helps to ensure ill people receive the necessary care, and it lessens the chance of other people getting sick. Colorado and Summit County have a strong disease surveillance system in place. Locally, SCPH routinely plans, coordinates and prepares with the medical community, the hospital and other partners to assure a coordinated and effective response."
Disease investigation is a core role of public health agencies. SCPH’s communicable disease program conducts 24/7 monitoring of more than 60 reportable diseases, including COVID-19, to help prevent the spread of disease in our community. SCPH regularly practices and updates its emergency operations plans to prepare to respond to a wide range of potential hazards. SCPH routinely works with local, state and federal partners to respond swiftly to emerging issues.
CDC recently issued a warning via Twitter about the current strain of coronavirus: “Now is the time for U.S. businesses, hospitals and communities to begin preparing for the possible spread of #COVID19.”
Summit County Public Health reminds the community that there are currently very few COVID-19 cases in the United States, and the CDC is advising preparation in case of an outbreak.
Employers can use the following resources to help with preparation:
A critical component of preparation is disaster planning, specifically business disruption. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security provides helpful information at https://www.ready.gov/business. Ready.gov also has personal preparation plans for all types of disasters, including pandemics.
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, spread through coughing and sneezing, much like the flu. Respiratory illness is extremely common during the winter months.
“Influenza has been active in Summit County as well as some RSV and common cold, “said Sara Lopez, Public Health Nurse Manager. “It is understandable that people hearing about novel coronavirus may be worried, but the risk to the general public in Summit County and the state remains low.”
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that have been associated with respiratory illness such as fever, cough and shortness of breath. Some coronaviruses are common and regularly cause illness in the United States in the fall and winter. Other coronaviruses like MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV have caused outbreaks internationally and have been known to cause severe illness. It is too soon to know how severe COVID-19 is compared to other coronaviruses or how easily it can spread between humans.
Symptoms of any coronavirus infection may include fever, cough and/or shortness of breath and usually appear within two to 14 days after exposure. Anyone experiencing these symptoms who also has a recent history of travel to affected geographic areas, or who has had close contact with someone who is confirmed to have COVID-19, should first call a health care provider, urgent care facility or hospital for instructions before going to a clinic or emergency room.
"When a new virus like COVID-19 emerges on the public health scene, there are many questions, and it is understandable to be concerned," Wineland said. "We encourage our community members to rely on trusted, credible sources of information to prevent the spread of misinformation."
The same recommended precautions for avoiding colds and flu can help protect against COVID-19:
According to the CDC, U.S. flu activity remains high. This season so far has an estimated 29 million illnesses, 280,000 hospitalizations and 16,000 deaths (including 105 children) nationwide as of Feb. 15.
“The spread of novel coronavirus is an evolving situation that we continue to monitor, and the safety of the Summit County community is our top priority,” Wineland said.
To learn more about the 2019 novel coronavirus, including symptoms and prevention, visit the State of Colorado’s COVID-19 webpage (https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/2019-novel-coronavirus), which also includes a link to outbreak data from the CDC.
People who have general questions about COVID-19 can call CO-Help at 303-389-1687 or 877-462-2911, or email COHELP@RMPDC.org, for answers in English and Spanish.