SMC/Ouray testing

The "Sofia" bronze sculpture by Richard Arnold greets everyone as they enter the Town of Telluride. Even she is taking proper precautions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Public virus testing will begin Saturday at the Telluride Intermediate School gymnasium. (Photo by Justin Criado/Telluride Daily Planet)  

San Miguel County officials announced its testing schedule Thursday morning, including times and how to sign up for the voluntary blood draw. 

A focus group of Telluride School District teachers and their families began testing Thursday and will finish up today (Friday). Officials said earlier this week that they wanted to start testing the focus group Wednesday, but finalizing required legal paperwork delayed the initial plan. After testing is complete Friday. Residents in the East End of the county who are 60-plus years old will be tested Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Telluride Intermediate School gymnasium, the testing site for all East End neighbors. Remaining residents in Mountain Village, Ophir, Sawpit, Placerville, Wilson Mesa, Hastings Mesa or Iron Springs Mesa (west on Highway 145 to mile-marker 90, and east on Highway 62 to mile-maker 13; top of Dallas Divide) will be tested Sunday and Tuesday at the same location and during the same hours or operations. Specific days for the surrounding neighborhoods were not immediately available before press time Thursday afternoon.  

To sign up for testing, register to receive CodeRED alerts and pre-register at c19SMC.com, where information about the United Biomedical Inc. test is available and consent forms can be filled out. Residents will be notified within 24 hours of their appointment. The same message will be broadcasted on KOTO. Volunteers will be on hand at the testing site to help anybody who doesn’t have internet access sign up on their cellphones. 

Susan Lilly, county public information officer, emphasized the importance of pre-registering. 

“There have been hundreds of manpower hours invested in getting all aspects of this testing operation up and going, safely and efficiently,” she said. “We ask that you do your part. That means pre-registering (if you have internet access) for the testing at c19smc.com. Register for CodeRED alerts at sanmiguelcountyco.gov/coronavirus, and following the schedule that is issued.”

She added that proof of residency, including a lease or utility bill, is required. People are encouraged to drive to their appointments with household members only for shelter and logistical reasons. Residents who are tested this weekend will be asked to take a second test 14 to 16 days after their initial blood draw.

Front-line workers and their immediate families were tested last week in preparation for the countywide operation. The results of all 645 people tested came back negative, though two people did experience a slight change in health, but not enough to change the test results. 

“Although the results did not come back as positive, we have asked them to self-quarantine for 14 days. Additionally, we have requested them to take the PCR nasal swab to compare the two tests,” Grace Franklin, director of public health, said in a news release. 

It was reassuring for two reasons: 1) to know that the cold-cough-crud that we were seeing in the region was not COVID-19 related, and if the virus was or is here, that our healthcare providers, EMS, and first responders have been taking appropriate precautions to protect themselves. 

The results of the 100 COVID-19 tests performed by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment March 17 are expected from the state sometime within the week. Lilly said the results will be made public whenever they’re available. 

Local officials announced last week that a 54-year-old resident of the county was the county’s first positive case. According to a news release, the married father returned home from a domestic trip and reported symptoms. He and his family, some of whom have experienced symptoms also, were isolating for 14 days. Lilly said Thursday the man’s recovery is going well. 

As of press time, the county had administered 47 nasal swab tests with one positive result, 20 negative and 26 still pending.

Volunteers are still needed, Lilly added. If interested, visit the Tri-County Health Network website at tchnetwork.org, as the organization is coordinating all volunteer efforts.

For the most up-to-date information, visit sanmiguelcountyco.gov/coronavirus.

OURAY COUNTY

Thursday morning, the Ouray County Board of County Commissioners rejected an offer by an anonymous citizen who offered to loan the money to purchase the same COVID-19 antibody tests being used in San Miguel County. The estimated $230,400 purchase would have covered enough tests for every Ouray County resident (approximately 9,600), but county medical officer Dr. Joel Gates, EMS medical director Dr. Drew Yeowell and public health director Tanner Kingery agreed that the type of test offered few benefits and several dangers.

“We all agree that we want to identify and protect the community from the coronavirus,” Yeowell said. “As a doctor, I love data, but this is not the test we want. I strongly urge that we do not pursue this test.”

He explained that an IgG test, as it is called, identifies whether a person’s body fluids containImmunoglobulin G, an antibody that protects against bacterial and viral infections, but does not necessarily identify whether someone actively has the disease. The results of just one test can provide inconclusive results about whether a person is over the infection or still has it, he said, adding that the one result can be misleading to the public and a follow-up test is necessary after two weeks.

He recommended the county wait to get better tests for the right price with quicker and more accurate results, which the public health and medical directors also agreed on.

Yeowell cautioned that testing large numbers of people with the less precise IgG tests would expose health care workers to infection and use up limited personal protection equipment, reducing qualified staff and resources that will be necessary when a surge of new infections happens as he expects. 

While the antibody tests may be useful in other locations like San Miguel County, he said the most effective way to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Ouray County is for people with symptoms to quarantine, hydrate and care for themselves. People with life-threatening symptoms should call their primary care provider and Montrose Memorial Hospital to arrange a visit if needed.

The county ordered 100 active-disease test kits earlier this month, but they aren’t expected to arrive until mid-April, and fewer tests may be delivered due to shortages across the country. Yeowell said the unified command members continue to discuss how to order more tests for the county’s population, but it’s difficult to know if the available, less precise tests that take longer to get results should be ordered, or whether the county should wait to order better, quicker tests.

Ouray County Emergency Manager Glenn Boyd said the county did reach out to the National Guard to request the same type of five-hour testing that was done in San Miguel County last week, but Montrose County was selected as a second testing location in the area instead. Part of the testing offer was for research purposes, and the two other counties were expected to provide better data, Boyd said.

Commissioners emphasized that they appreciated offers for financial assistance like the one for the antibody tests. Others who want to offer assistance to the county can contact the public health director. 

“That would be amazing if we could find that kind of help. They could provide money for swabs for active disease tests with results in three days, but I don’t know if that many tests (are available for order),” Yeowell said.