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Eagle County health officials step up coronavirus precautions

This article first appeared on on February 26, 2020.
Key stakeholders in the Eagle County Public Health system have been collaborating for weeks to discuss response options for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, should it arrive in Eagle County.

Eagle County has not yet experienced a case of COVID-19. However, health officials agree that it is only a matter of time before cases emerge in Colorado and locally. Most illnesses are relatively mild, according to Rebecca Larson, Epidemiologist and Deputy Director for Eagle County Public Health and Environment. “Approximately 80% or more have had fever, with cough or aches and have recovered without needing any special medical treatment,” she said. “The greatest risk for severe illness and complications is among older adults, especially those 80 years of age or older or people with pre-existing health conditions.”

“The level of COVID-19 spread taking place in communities outside of China is another important indicator that we need to be prepared locally for its arrival,” said Heath Harmon, Director of Eagle County Public Health and Environment. “Let’s face it, we have a lot of residents who travel internationally and we welcome those international travelers into our community.  We don’t want people to panic.  We do want people to know there are many actions that can be taken to protect yourself.  In addition, we want people to know these are the same actions that will slow the spread and benefit the community as a whole.”

Recommendations to prevent illness:

Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
Stay home when you are sick.
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and properly dispose of it.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
Wash your hands with soap and water frequently, for at least 20 seconds, especially before and after touching your nose, mouth, or eyes. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a good alternative if you don’t have access to a sink and soap. 

Recommended precautions for employers:

Encourage people to stay home when they are sick.
Send home staff who become sick at work. Rest is important for their recovery, as well as preventing transmission in the work environment.
Encourage people to wash their hands frequently.
Disinfect surfaces on a regular basis and promote the availability of disposable wipes for keyboards, and other surfaces that are frequently used.
Consider flexible work options for employees that can work from home.
Healthy people who recently traveled may return to work unless otherwise indicated by Public Health.

Recommendations for those who get sick:

  • Stay home if you develop a fever, cough or shortness of breath. 
  • Wear a face mask (surgical mask if you have one) or cover your cough and sneeze.
  • Wash your hands frequently and don’t share personal items (drinking glass or utensils) with others.
  • Call your healthcare provider. Do not show up at a clinic, urgent care or the emergency department unannounced.
  • Your doctor’s office will assess your illness on the phone, which may include information or other guidance for you and household members.
  • Testing for COVID-19 is not a routine test. Your healthcare provider will work with local and state public health officials to determine who should be tested for COVID-19. All testing is currently limited to those with the highest risk of exposure. 
  • Since many of the illnesses are mild, we expect most COVID-19 patients will be isolated in their own home to rest and recover.  If possible, sleep in a bedroom and use a bathroom that is not used by other household members. 
  • There is no antiviral treatment for COVID-19. Getting rest and drinking plenty of fluids will likely be helpful for recovery. Only the most critically ill will be hospitalized.
Among the many planning scenarios local healthcare partners have been working through is how to handle a surge of patients seeking care. “Our biggest concern is slowing down the spread of the disease when it occurs in our county.  At that time we will ask patients that believe they might have COVID-19 to please stay home and call their healthcare provider to discuss their symptoms and need for medical care. This will allow a clinical assessment and guidance to be provided in a way that will help limit exposures among people that may be seeking care for other reasons,” said Caitlyn Ngam, Infection Preventionist at Vail Health. “We are pleased with the coordinated efforts between the different entities regarding preparing for COVID-19 in our community and feel confident in our ability to address it.”
In the event of an outbreak, information will be posted at This will include links to current information from local, state and national public health sources.
People concerned that they have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 infection should stay home and call their healthcare provider. After assessment, if healthcare providers are concerned that a patient’s symptoms may be related to COVID-19, they are asked to contact public health officials. For more information, visit