The diagnosis of a third positive case in Chaffee County comes on the heels of a Chaffee County Public Health virtual meeting Friday, at which local health and government representatives weighed in on measures each entity is taking during the COVID-19 crisis.

Participants included Public Health, Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center, Chaffee County Emergency Medical Services, Chaffee County commissioners and Solvista Health.

Public Health Director Andrea Carlstrom said she has an “amazing team” to investigate cases the department is aware of. Due to the overwhelming number of tests at the state health department and lab, CCPH has been asked to scale back its testing. “We are going to be really promoting isolation, quarantining and social distancing for now,” she said.

Carlstrom said, “We are urging you to stay home, the best strategy that we have right now to get a handle on COVID-19. If you can’t do that, please go from your home to your workplace or to the grocery store to get that essential item and return home as soon as possible. We really appreciate everyone’s cooperation and understanding at this time.”

Josh Hadley, manager of Chaffee County EMS, said they have updated some of their approaches and protocols in the last week. Any medical call coming into dispatch, unless deemed critical, will have one paramedic in full personal protective equipment, who will go in and assess the patient and identify from there what additional resourced are needed. In that way EMS personnel can minimize exposure and conserve protective equipment. Hadley also said an additional ambulance is now available for the community. A request has been made to the state to provide additional ambulance services to rural communities to facilitate transfers to the Front Range, which is still being discussed.

Carlstrom said CCPH will host a virtual town hall at 12:30 p.m. every Friday on Facebook live and Zoom. A virtual check-in will take place at noon Monday through Thursday on Facebook Live.

HRRMC announce additional restrictions

Dr. Erica Gelgand of HRRMC said the hospital has opened its incident command center and is enacting additional restrictions.

A press release stated the Outpatient Pavilion is now closed. Providers there will only see patients through telehealth services until further notice.

Buena Vista Health Center and Salida Health Center clinics will only see sick patients in person moving forward. Well patients will be seen via telehealth services.

The Saguache Health Center will close to in-person visits until further notice, but telehealth services will be available by calling Salida Health Center at 719-530-2022. Pharmacy services will continue to be delivered to the Saguache Health Center for pickup from 9-11 a.m. Mondays and Wednesdays.

At the hospital visitors will only be allowed in the hospital on a case-by-case basis.

Sleep studies will be discontinued until further notice.

Urgent cardiopulmonary cases will be assessed and scheduled on a case-by-case basis.

Patients presenting lab or imaging orders without respiratory symptoms can go to the main hospital entrance and receive their services. Patients presenting orders for those services with respiratory symptoms should go directly to the emergency department to be screened before accessing services. Gelgand said those with non-urgent or emergent testing needs are requested to stay home until the hospital can tell them it is safe to come into the hospital.

“We have been preparing for this since the third of March on a very active level,” said Gelgand. “We appreciate the fact that the community is supportive. We want the community to remain supportive and know that we are here to make sure to provide quality care and also careful to make sure that we hopefully can control the spread of this virus and keep people safe.”

Chaffee County Commissioner Greg Felt echoed his thanks to the community for their patience and understanding in the rapidly changing situation.

“We are really grateful too for all the tremendous acts of kindness that we are hearing about and experiencing directly throughout our community,” he said.

“You’ll never know how important that is when you give someone a virtual pat on the shoulder at this time. A lot of folks are isolated and not used to that and using virtual media and telephones or just shouting across the street; it’s really doing more benefit for some folks than you can know. So I hope you’ll keep that up.

“This is going to end eventually, and we’ll all look forward to shaking hands and sharing hugs when that’s appropriate,” Felt said.

Felt thanked the county’s municipal partners, the city of Salida, towns of Buena Vista and Poncha Springs, school districts, Chaffee County Economic Development Corp. and chambers of commerce for being very cooperative and working together toward consistent messaging and problem solving.

Felt said that although many county department workers are working from home, essential functions are continuing to be carried out and phones are being answered.

He especially thanked Carlstrom for her work.

“We are way ahead of many rural counties in Colorado,” he said.

He reiterated the public health stance of staying home, adding, “Please try to keep your kids home,” noting that groups of kids are congregating.

Kelsey McNeill of Solvista Health also gave information about services during this time. Solvista is available 24/7 at 719-539-6502.

For more health information visit the COVID-19 Chaffee County Facebook page.

For county and resource information visit chaffeecounty.org.

For economic information visit choosecolorado.com.

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