As stated by the American Lung Association—and countless other nonprofit organizations, as well as scientists, hospitals, public health agencies and more—the lungs are the first organ in the body to be affected by COVID-19.
In the onset of a COVID-19 infection, the novel coronavirus quickly invades cells in one’s respiratory system.
COVID-19 is thought to attack a type of cell that is flat and usually found on surfaces that require a smooth flow of fluid, such as blood vessels.
This type of cell lines the airways. The airways catch and clear out unwanted things like pollen and viruses, which fill airways with fragments and fluids.
As the entire world has discovered during the past year, individuals who become sick with COVID-19 may experience no symptoms at all, and some experience mild to severe symptoms that go well beyond the lungs.
COVID-19 symptoms include new loss of taste or smell, fever or chills, muscle/body aches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, headache, sore throat, cough, shortness of breath/difficulty breathing, congestion and runny nose.
Severe cases have been reported to cause a number of complications, which have required medical intervention and/or hospitalization.
Individuals with lung diseases such as asthma, COPD or lung cancer are at higher risk for a serious case of COVID-19.
These individuals, among those with diabetes and heart issues, are considered high risk and have been asked to take extra precautions since the start of the pandemic.
Although the COVID-19 vaccine is in the beginning phases of distribution in Chaffee County, Chaffee County Public Health still recommends that residents follow the five commitments to containment.
Recently, public health, the Chaffee County Economic Development Corporation and other local stakeholders launched a campaign that highlights the five commitments. The countywide campaign is called “Chaffee’s Got HEART.”
HEART stands for:
Hang at home if sick.
Excel at hand washing.
Always wear a mask properly in public.
Respect social distancing.
Test if you have symptoms.
These strategies to mitigate COVID-19 are still necessary for keeping the community safe, helping schools sustain in-person learning, and keeping businesses and restaurants operating at a safe capacity.
Emily Anderson, public health nurse, said, “Please be mindful when you are out in public.
“We have noticed a current increase in community spread, which is higher than we’ve ever seen since the pandemic started.
“Although some individuals are following every guideline, the spread throughout the community is unfortunately occurring.
“There is also a trend of travel related positive cases, both involving out of county, or hosting out-of-town relatives here in Chaffee County.”
Chaffee County residents are responsible for having HEART to protect the lungs and lives of all citizens, whether they live in the county or out of the county.
This includes continuing to quarantine or isolate when asked to do so.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a new option for 7-10 day quarantine periods for most positive cases.
These new alternatives are not 100 percent risk free; the gold standard for quarantine is still 14 days.
All of these measures developed by experts and scientists continue to be key in slowing the spread of COVID-19.
The vaccine for COVID-19 will also be a key tool in helping to end the pandemic.
Public health director Andrea Carlstrom said, “We urge everyone to have HEART and please think before participating in gatherings and activities that are contributing to the spread of the virus in our county.
“Each positive case causes a dramatic ripple effect that has the potential to surge our systems.
“Although the COVID-19 vaccine is here, it’s imperative that we care for one another and do what is hard, but necessary, now and over the holiday season.”
To learn more about how to keep Chaffee County safe in the days to come, follow public health on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/COVID19ChaffeeCounty. To learn more about having HEART, visit https://chaffeesgotheart.org.
April Obholz Bergeler is the communications specialist for Chaffee County Public Health.