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Sunday afternoon the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environmental Protection (CDPHE) put out a strong warning for residents and any people who have been or are visitors in Eagle, Summit, Pitkin, or Gunnison counties in the past week. Their message: minimize all contact with other people, whether or not they are experiencing symptoms.

Self-quarantine is one of the recommended steps for those who might have been exposed to COVID-19. Image courtesy of the CDC.

The CDPHE’s warning: These mountain counties of Eagle, Summit, Pitkin, or Gunnison counties have seen the spread of the virus. “Due to extensive spread of COVID-19 in a number of mountain resort communities, it is urgent that anyone who has been in these counties in the past week should practice serious self quarantine, whether or not they are experiencing symptoms.”

According to the release, the CDPHE says that community transmission is likely increasing across the state, so these measures are important to implement everywhere, but are particularly urgent for residents and visitors of mountain communities that are already experiencing high rates of community transmission.

“We’re seeing extensive outbreaks in these communities,” said Rachel Herlihy, State Epidemiologist, CDPHE. “We are asking people to take this voluntary action to slow the spread of the disease in Colorado and keep people safe. If we do this now, our hope is that we can slow down the spread of this virus and lessen the potential stress on our health care systems and workers.”

According to the CDPHE, if you are sick, it is only safe to leave isolation if your symptoms are improving and you don’t have a fever for 72 hours immediately prior to the end of your isolation. Isolation may be longer for individuals who have more severe illness or who work in high-risk occupations like health care.

The CDPHE recommends that residents and visitors of the affected communities take the following actions:

  • Stay home or in a comparable setting as much as possible:
  • Work from home if possible; if you can’t work from home, maintain at least 6 feet of distance between you and your coworkers or customers.
  • Only go to public spaces for necessities such as groceries and the pharmacy.
  • Continue healthy, non-group activities like walking, hiking, jogging, cycling and other activities that maintain distance from other people.
  • Don’t gather in group settings.
  • Avoid mass gatherings.
  • Maintain distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others.
  • If you need to travel, use a private vehicle instead of taking buses, rideshares, flights, or other transportation that puts you in contact with other people.

Currently, there are at least 18 positive COVID-19 cases from people who have spent time in Eagle County, 13 in Pitkin County, six in Gunnison County, and three in Summit County.  Many additional tests are pending, and it is likely there is sustained community transmission of COVID-19 in these areas.

County public health and emergency management agencies continue to provide more detailed guidance for residents and visitors within their communities. The general guidance from the CDPHE strongly encourages the following:

If you live in Colorado and are leaving one of these communities, minimize contact with other people for 14 days and watch for the development of symptoms like cough, fever, and shortness of breath.

If you are visiting Colorado from out of state and do not currently have symptoms (cough, fever, and shortness of breath), return home and practice social distancing there.

If you have symptoms, stay where you are, isolate yourself from others, and call a health care provider or nurse line before seeking care. Do not fly. Do not use public transportation or ride-shares.

Certain people are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, including:

  • Older people (over age 60), especially those over 80 years.
  • People who have chronic medical conditions like heart, lung, kidney disease, or diabetes.
  • Older people with chronic medical conditions are at greatest risk.

Everyone should continue to take the following actions to protect themselves and those close to them:

  • Practice social distancing:
    • When possible, increase distance between people to six feet to help reduce spread.
    • Don’t shake hands. Instead, bump fists or elbows.
  • Do not attend public gatherings.
  • Frequently and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash, or use your inner elbow or sleeve.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Stay home if you’re sick, and keep your children home if they are sick.
  • Clean surfaces in your home, and personal items such as cell phones, using regular household products.

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