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Chaffee County Public Health Urges Business Support for Isolation and Quarantine

In an announcement late Thursday Aug. 27,  Chaffee County Public Health (CCPH) encouraged Chaffee residents to understand and follow the recommended guidelines for isolation and quarantine, as the two basic tenets of controlling disease transmission. As the nation moves toward the seventh month of the COVID-19 pandemic, with no vaccine, and facing a predicted second wave of the virus, following these guidelines is more important than ever to protect the county and our economy from the worst impacts of the pandemic.

Health Department employees at the Touber Building test site. Courtesy photo.

“If businesses and their employees are willing to abide by isolation and quarantine guidelines, we believe disruption to our business community will ultimately be quite small,” said Public Health Director Andrea Carlstrom. “Until we have a vaccine and treatment for COVID-19, we all must work together as a community to support those who are asked to isolate or quarantine.”

The two terms can be confusing to people. According to CCPH, isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick. Quarantine separates and restricts the movements of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.

In the case of COVID-19, people with positive cases typically isolate for 10 days, though severe cases may need to isolate for up to 20 days.

Close contacts of people who are positive quarantine for 14 days from the date of their last exposure to the positive case. A close contact is defined as any individual who was within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from two days prior to onset of symptoms (or for asymptomatic patients, two days prior to positive specimen collection) until the time the positive case’s isolation period is complete.

According to Carlstrom, these two actions – isolation and quarantine – are two of our most powerful tools when trying to stop the spread of COVID-19. She acknowledges that they also can be very disruptive for all those who are involved. Someone who is quarantined is asked to stay home from work, avoid all social gatherings, and even find alternatives for such essential tasks like grocery shopping.

If a close contact of someone who has tested positive does not follow quarantine guidelines, there is the potential that they spread COVID-19 to their family, friends and coworkers if they become infected.

If those contacts don’t follow quarantine guidelines, they may spread it amongst their family, friends and coworkers. The spread of COVID-19 has the potential to grow exponentially every time isolation and quarantine orders are ignored – accelerating community spread.

CCPH is asking employers of every size to assist their efforts to control COVID-19 community spread in Chaffee County by supporting the isolation and quarantine of employees within their workplace.

“We recognize how disruptive and challenging this is for employers, but the alternative is much more complicated,” says Carlstrom. She provides this scenario:

  • An employee comes to work on Monday without symptoms but becomes symptomatic Monday night and is diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • Through contact tracing the positive employee lists 10 coworkers as close contacts. Those 10 coworkers may become sick, or may not, but we won’t know until at least two weeks have passed, because COVID-19 can incubate in the body for up to 14 days.
  • If two of those coworkers were to become symptomatic but did not quarantine (or quarantined for too short of a period), we then need to look at their close contacts beginning from two days before symptom onset. If each of those cases had 10 close contacts, suddenly that business has 30 close contacts instead of the original 10.

CCPH already has a record of working directly with positive cases and their employers to determine who needs to be quarantined and until what date.

For more information on best practices for preventing and reducing the severity of outbreaks in the workplace, visit the Colorado COVID Website. For a list of local resources available to you and your employees in the event of quarantine, visit the Chaffee County COVID Website.