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The Director of Chaffee County Public Health Andrea Carlstrom, said during her daily(Monday) update that known cases of the coronavirus known as COVID-19), that Colorado cases of the virus were approaching 5,000 at last report. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) reported 924 hospitalizations from the disease affecting 54 counties and deaths increased sharply; from 97 last Thursday to 140 reported April 5.

Chaffee County Public Health

There were 26 confirmed cases in Chaffee County, Carlstrom said, with 12 reported recovered. The 26 cases included nine residents of Columbine Manor Care Center, as well as five of their staff members infected at last count. She added that counting exact numbers was a bit more difficult, since the county launched its self-reporting tool, which allows people to report symptoms, without having been formally tested.

In all, some 191 tests have been done locally for the virus, 160 came back negative and 23 were pending at last report. In the state, more than 25,700 people have been tested.

Columbine Manor. Image courtesy of ICCA.

Columbine Manor is one of 37 facilities in the state reporting outbreaks of COVID-19 among residents and staff. Columbine Manor management was asked for further details on the outbreak as well as procedures in place to prevent the spread, but have not returned calls to Ark Valley Voice.

A source told Ark Valley Voice last week the facility was under a ‘gag order,’ presumably from its parent company Life Care Centers of America, to not talk to media about the outbreak. A request for information from Life Care on the gag order was not responded to by deadline for this story.

Life Care operates more than 200 skilled nursing, rehabilitation, Alzheimer’s and senior living campuses in 28 states, including 22 in Colorado.

A Life Care facility in Kirkland, WA, was the site of a major COVID-19 outbreak, where 101 of 120 residents were diagnosed with the disease and by March 18, more than a third (34) of those residents had died. On April 2, Life Care Center was fined $611,000 for deficiencies in response to the outbreak and was ordered to correct those deficiencies by mid-September or face termination of Medicare/Medicaid funding.

Governor Jared Polis has urged Coloradans to wear masks were going out in public, in addition to the stay-at-home advisories issued previously. While masks alone will not prevent COVID-19, proper use of a mask combined with good hygienic practices, staying at home, social distancing and limiting visits to essential business may prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“We will be working hard to get a reusable face mask for every resident of Chaffee County,” Carlstrom said.

She provided online tutorials about how to make your own at home.

A DIY (Do it Yourself) Mask made from bandana and rubber bands. Image courtesy Kristin Omdahl

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Carlstrom also thanked the community for its support and cooperation in following rules to try to contain the outbreak, and thanked members of the public health community for their dedicated work in the crisis.

She reminded residents that a self-reporting tool for those with symptoms was now live on the county web site and that 61 people have reported their symptoms thus far, including 10 who have reported their symptoms have been resolved. She said the information gathered in the tool will be used for aggregating summary data only.