The Elbert County Coroner has confirmed that postmortem lab results of a recently deceased Elbert County resident reveal he tested positive for COVID-19. The man, in his 70s, passed away at his home on March 26, 2020. This represents the fourth known case of COVID-19 in the county. I hope to complete a CDC Case Report on this incident very soon. Elbert County Commissioner Chris Richardson extended his condolences to the resident’s family. “Our sincere condolences are with his friends and family during this difficult time. While this is a worldwide pandemic, we always remember that it has a very personal effect on our friends and neighbors here in Elbert County.”
Additionally, it appears as though one new case in El Paso County has been incorrectly assigned to the count for Elbert County. We are communicating with CDPHE to get this case accurately reported. Regardless of official counts, however, the state has entered a phase of accelerated exposures to the virus. In the past two weeks, the volume of cases has grown from 144 cases in 18 counties to 2,307 cases in 46 counties. COVID-19 hospitalizations have ballooned from 20 to 326, and deaths have sadly increased from one to 47. There have also been at least 10 outbreaks of the virus in residential and non-hospital health care facilities, such as senior living centers. There are likely thousands more infected by the virus but who either haven’t been tested, or don’t have symptoms. As a reminder, everyone has a responsibility to not only protect themselves, but to protect their friends, family, neighbors, and community. It is imperative that we work collectively to limit vectors for the virus, and the best way to curb the outbreak is to strictly practice social distancing.
Last Wednesday , March 25, Governor Polis submitted an urgent request to the federal government to help Colorado deal with COVID-19. On Saturday, the Governor announced that President Trump and the federal government have approved his request in declaring a Major Disaster for the State of Colorado. Per his announcement, Colorado is now eligible to receive additional federal resources to help address the global epidemic impacting our state. This declaration ensures that Colorado can be on a level playing field with other states that already have this status like New York and Washington when it comes to federal disaster funding and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance.
Lastly, the Colorado State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) is working with communities across the state to prepare for an expected major increase in the need for intensive care unit (ICU) beds as a result of COVID-19. The SEOC is partnering with local public health organizations, health care facilities, the Colorado Hospital Association, and federal and state agencies to prepare for a potential medical surge by:
- Identifying all current hospital beds in the state by type of care.
- Helping health care facilities with plans to free up ICU beds and transfer patients.
- Identifying and preparing alternative care sites that could be repurposed to provide medical care.
- Identifying and redeploying additional ventilators to areas of need with the goal of increasing ICU bed capacity.
Current estimates are that Colorado has 1,849 ICU beds across the state. The state’s goal is to add 1,000 beds by May, and to add another 5,000 by the summer. In the meantime, each health care facility is working to move patients out of ICUs, when possible, into acute care beds and lower-needs beds in order to prepare for increased demand in ICU settings.
Dwayne Smith, MEd, MCHES®, CPST
Administrator, Elbert County Public Health