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San Juan Basin Public Health reported 18 positive COVID-19 cases Friday afternoon and one in Archuleta County.
La Plata County and Durango officials told residents to act as though they have COVID-19 and to prepare for the long haul in the fight against the new coronavirus in a city update video released Friday.
“This has been a challenging, rapidly changing week for our community as we now have several cases of COVID-19,” said Gwen Lachelt, La Plata County commissioner, in the update video. “Our world has been turned upside down as family and friends and neighbors who have lost their jobs ... Our lives really are forever changed due to the coronavirus epidemic.”
Most of the new cases in La Plata County were identified during the health department’s drive-up screening, meant to take a snapshot of the virus’ spread in the community. As of Friday afternoon, Colorado has 1,734 positive cases and 31 deaths.
As Southwest Colorado residents adjust to the state’s recent stay-at-home order, officials pointed them toward support resources and urge them to do their part to prevent the virus’ spread.
“I really want the residents in our community to be prepared for the long haul,” said Lachelt, referencing the unabated rise of cases in New York.
There, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the height of the crisis is still about 21 days away, according to a NBC New York article Friday.
She also advised community members to follow Surgeon General Jerome Adams’ advice, who urged everyone to act as though they already have the virus.
“This new reality is really hard. It’s stressful, and I really appreciate everyone’s patience and commitment to working together and getting our community through this crisis,” Lachelt said.
Other county and city officials echoed Lachelt’s statements and emphasized that the virus transmission has reached community spread in the region.
Community spread means at least one of the individuals is believed to have acquired the disease locally rather than from outside the community. This indicates that transmission of the virus is accelerating in the community, according to a SJBPH news release.
“That’s why our statewide stay-at-home order is so essential,” said Durango Mayor Melissa Youssef.
The city update video also included a question-and-answer session with SJBPH Executive Director Liane Jollon, and updates from business, restaurant and county representatives.
“We really lack testing to determine what steps we should be taking in communities,” Jollon said.
Jollon said health officials will focus on increasing its community testing as activity in the region dies down during the two-week stay-at-home order, which is in effect through April 11.
Widespread community testing will help them identify patients and how to best combat the virus’ spread. She did not know if SJBPH would receive any of the new tests being distributed by the state.
Health care institutions are working hard to prevent a surge of COVID-19 cases, she said. However, they are preparing for the possibility the region will see a surge that overshoots health care’s current treatment capacity, she said.
They are looking for alternative care sites in La Plata and Archuleta counties in case such a surge does take place.
Amber Blake, Durango interim city manager, urged people to stay home and take care of mental health needs. All city services continue to function. Playgrounds and picnic areas are closed, but parks, trails and open space are open.
Residents should not flush anything but toilet paper, such as paper towels or wipes, down the toilet, she said.
The business community and government officials pointed community members toward several resources.
SWCODA.org is the “one-stop shop” for offering and receiving help. Small businesses, community members and employees in five counties can find resources and donate to the Community Emergency Relief Fund. The city of Durango has regular updates at https://co-durango.civicplus.com/emergency.Community members can also contact the Durango Business Improvement District and Durango Restaurant Association for employee and business firstname.lastname@example.org