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Health officials in Southwest Colorado have confirmed more positive cases of the coronavirus, which will likely result in more strict measures on the community to reduce the disease’s spread.
On Wednesday, San Juan Basin Public Health said a total of three new cases of the virus have been confirmed, bringing to four the total number of cases in La Plata County, with the first case announced Monday.
Archuleta County, which SJBPH also serves, has reported no cases to date.
The new positive cases were from community testing last week on about 70 people. The health department is still awaiting results from about 13 tests.
Liane Jollon, executive director of SJBPH, said demographics of those who tested positive will not be released. But health officials are using the results to track where the virus is spreading in the region.
“It was really important for us to bring community testing down here to get that snapshot,” she said.
The major takeaway, Jollon said, is the new findings showed the coronavirus in people who have not left La Plata County in the past 14 days before showing symptoms, a sign to health officials that transmission of the disease is happening within the community.
“These are people who didn’t fly in from Denver or Italy,” she said. “Unfortunately, it’s spreading from community member to community member.”
The new cases heighten the need for more aggressive measures to slow the spread of the virus, Jollon said. If stricter measures are not put in place, she said, it’s likely Southwest Colorado’s trajectory of increased cases will follow suit with other places that have been hit hard after not promoting social distancing.
The move from a stay-at-home advisory to an order is the expected route, but Jollon said those details will be coordinated with local and state officials Wednesday, with a formal action likely announced Thursday.
Wednesday’s findings have confirmed what health officials suspected and feared.
For the past few weeks, a lack of available testing kits had health officials playing a bit of a guessing game about whether the virus had reached Southwest Colorado, or at the very least, to what degree.
Health officials said residents should assume and behave as if the virus was here and spreading, leading to a host of local and state orders and advisories to limit human interaction, like closing restaurants and schools, shutting down ski resorts and discouraging groups of more than 10 people.
But a concerted effort to test 70 at-risk Southwest Colorado residents happened Friday and Saturday, and about 30 more tests are being done today.
The most recent data from the state health department shows 912 positive cases in Colorado throughout 35 counties, and 11 deaths. No deaths have been reported in La Plata County.