The novel coronavirus could stick around in Colorado for months, and the number of cases may rise to a point where not everyone who shows symptoms can be tested for the disease, state health officials said Thursday as COVID-19 cases rose to 49 in Colorado.
Jill Hunsaker Ryan
The expected longevity of the new coronavirus is one reason why the state is limiting testing to those who are showing symptoms, said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
“It doesn’t do any good to test someone who is asymptomatic,” she said in a conference call with reporters, adding later, “Since we plan to be in this for the long haul — it could be months — we want to think about rationing supplies, just in case, because we have worldwide pandemic, supply chains are interrupted. We don’t know what that is going to look like yet, but we just want to put it out that we need to think strategically about who we need to test.”
The spread of the virus might slow during the summer, she said, but could pop back up in the winter as the temperature cools. As the disease “exponentially” spreads, the quantity of patients could outweigh the state’s ability to test them, she said. Coloradans should be prepared to self-quarantine if they show symptoms, even without a positive test.
“There is no doubt we’ve got it in Colorado and we need to be prepared that it is spreading among people in the community,” Hunsaker Ryan said. “And you wouldn’t necessarily have to travel somewhere else to pick it up.”
The state will also soon shift away from tracking the movements and contacts of people who tested positive for the new coronavirus, Hunsaker Ryan said.
“When we just had a few cases, it was a good way to try to reduce the spread of the disease, but it will at some point in the near future outweigh our ability to keep up with it,” Hunsaker Ryan said of the contact tracing.
On Thursday, 15 more people tested positive for the new coronavirus in Colorado, bringing the total number of presumptive positive cases in the state to 49.
Positive tests have now been reported in 11 counties, with the biggest clusters of positive results in Pitkin and Denver counties. Ten people tested positive for COVID-19 in Pitkin County — all Australians who were visiting Aspen and traveling as a group — and nine have tested positive in Denver, according to the department of health. The test for one more person in Denver was inconclusive, but that patient is being treated as having COVID-19 case and is included in the state’s tally.
The 15 new cases reported Thursday included seven people in Eagle County, three in Denver County, two in Adams County and one in each of Jefferson, Gunnison and Pitkin counties.
Authorities are investigating how 10 of those people were exposed to the virus, the other five either had contact with an infected person or recently traveled abroad.
At least 400 people have been tested for the novel coronavirus in the state since Feb. 28, and 160 people gave samples at a drive-up testing site in Denver on Wednesday. That site was forced to turn people away on Thursday as wait times to be tested reached four hours.
State officials are considering where to open additional mobile testing centers, Hunsaker Ryan said.
“We are talking about doing that today, and in a strategic way so we can help try and determine what the prevalence of this looks like,” Hunsaker Ryan said. “Are there places in the state where people haven’t been tested due to lack of access, but the virus is there? Those are the conversations we are having today.”
A testing center in Pitkin County that can handle between 20 and 30 tests a day is open at the Aspen Volunteer Fire Department’s location in Aspen Village. That testing center is not open to the public but rather to people who have already been screened through the county’s coronavirus hotline, which can be reached at 970-429-6186.
The new coronavirus mainly spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes, and those who are within 6 feet of an infected person are most at risk.
Typical symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, coughing and shortness of breath, according to the CDC. Those who think they might be infected should call their regular physician.
For more information on the virus, call 303-389-1687 or 1-877-462-2911, email COHELP@RMPDC.org, or go to cdc.gov or colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/2019-novel-coronavirus.
The 15 new cases reported Thursday include the following people:
This content was originally published here.