Coronavirus Updates: Pueblo reacts to create distance after positive coronavirus case

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It’s one of the most considerable civic disruptions of life in Southern Colorado, possibly not seen since the 1921 flood – a confirmed presumptive positive case of COVID-19 in Pueblo County has altered day-to-day life, with possibly more changes to come.

In less than 24 hours, the so-called “Pueblo County COVID group” went from warning the community the virus will reach the region to announcing Pueblo had its first case.

The local picture: One presumptive positive out of nine negative tests has completely changed Pueblo in a matter of hours. It’s unknown who the individual may have interacted with the Pueblo community, when, where, and how. After a positive is confirmed, local health agencies begin an investigation.

The facts: A man in his 30s is the first presumptive positive case of COVID-19 in Pueblo County. He was admitted to the emergency room at Parkview Hospital, where he was administered a test, which was sent to the state lab. He is listed in good condition and is recovering in self-isolation at home. 

Parkview Hospital says it was aware the man might have had COVID-19, and staff took protective measures to isolate the man to protect patients and staff.

Behind the Scenes: Pueblo health officials were in contact with the man late Friday afternoon and immediately began an epidemiological investigation to learn who the man came into contact with and where he contracted it.

Questions for health leaders remain: It wasn’t made public on Thursday by the Pueblo’s COVID group how many tests were requested or what the level of concern was. What isn’t known on Friday evening is when the infected person went to Parkview and how widespread testing is in Pueblo.

Frustration with communication: Pueblo health officials said they learned about Pueblo’s presumptive positive from a media release and not directly from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which is where the test from Parkview was sent.

Why is Pueblo County an at-risk county?  Higher rates of obesity, chronic disease, and high numbers of over-the-age-of-60 put many Southern Coloradans at risk. Because many Coloradans live or work in Pueblo but live and work in various Southeastern Colorado communities, community spread is a serious threat. The real concern is if Pueblo or more rural communities see a rapid spike in COVID-19 cases, it could seize health care capacity. 

Worry about that other 20%: Parkview Hospital’s CEO Leslie Barnes put it bluntly in a Friday afternoon news conference: “80-percent [who contract the novel coronavirus] will recover at home.” 20% who contract the virus will have more severe symptoms and it’s that 20% that will need more intensive care that concerns health care providers.

Will there be a testing site in Pueblo County? Pueblo County Department of Health said they are working to create a stand-up site in Pueblo County, but there isn’t a specified timeline. The department said they would need training, planning, staffing, and the equipment to keep everyone involved safe.

An El Paso County woman in her 80s  was Colorado’s first COVID-19 death. She died Friday.

Digital footing? Or electronic readiness? – Pueblo County and city services are still operational, but both governments are asking residents to do their business online when they can. Local utilities are asking people to pay online or through drive-up windows. 

It’s about the economy, too: With parts of Southern Colorado closing down or reducing services for 30 days, how will that impact small businesses, concerts, musicians, artists, service workers, contractors, and the economy in general? It’s early days, but in the coming weeks, expect local leaders to address the economic impact of the coronavirus. 

What’s next?: Friday was fluid with information as Southern Colorado adapted to the news. If more cases are confirmed presumptive positive more services could be impacted.