Nine employees of Chaffee County Emergency Medical Services have been under quarantine since May 16 after a Front Range part-time paramedic who filled in on a shift May 13 tested positive for COVID-19.
EMS Director Josh Hadley issued a press release about the status of the crew members who are affected.
Hadley said that on May 13 a full-time EMS employee was unable to work, and his shift was filled by the Front Range part-time paramedic.
EMS employs part-time staff who live outside the county because there are not enough Chaffee County-based paramedics and critical care paramedics available to meet countywide needs, Hadley said.
The paramedic reported for a 24-hour shift at 7 a.m. May 13, passing a preshift medical screening, and remaining asymptomatic for the duration of the shift through 7 a.m. May 14.
That night, the paramedic began showing minor respiratory symptoms and notified EMS of this development and an intent to be tested for COVID-19 in the Front Range.
The paramedic received a positive COVID-19 result May 16, after being tested by his Front Range primary employer.
Hadley said it is unknown whether the paramedic was contagious while at work in Chaffee County.
After learning the test results, Chaffee County EMS immediately placed all nine employees who were in direct contact with the affected paramedic on a strict 14-day quarantine from their first day of exposure.
On Sunday, five EMS employees with the greatest direct exposure were tested at Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center, and all five tested negative at that time.
A second round of testing occurred Tuesday, with results expected back from the state lab within the next 48 hours.
As of Wednesday, all exposed employees remain asymptomatic.
While quarantined, all nine employees are self-monitoring symptoms several times per day in addition to daily check-ins with supervisory staff.
While in Chaffee County, the paramedic also came in direct contact with an HRRMC employee in a social setting outside the hospital without proper personal protective equipment.
That HRRMC employee has been medically assessed by the hospital’s employee health nurse, is being tested for COVID-19 and is quarantined.
The affected employee has not come into any HRRMC facility nor provided patient care since being exposed to the virus.
Hadley said no patients were exposed or potentially exposed to COVID-19 while the paramedic was covering the shift, as he did not treat any patients.
He said no patients were exposed to any positive COVID-19 EMS providers in the proposed time frame.
The paramedic who tested positive is doing well and has largely recovered from COVID-19 at this time. He is continuing to self-isolate in the Front Range where he lives.
Chaffee County EMS and HRRMC are exercising an abundance of caution and following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, which state that a person should be considered potentially infectious in the 48 hours preceding symptom onset.
Hadley said Chaffee County EMS is working to restrict use of EMS responders who do not live in Chaffee County, unless absolutely necessary, for the foreseeable future.
He said Chaffee County EMS appreciates the seriousness of the situation and has been following CDC and state health department guidelines, along with advisement from Chaffee County Public Health and several physicians at HRRMC.