Test kits for COVID-19 were ordered by the Ouray County Public Health Agency, but are not expected to arrive until early to mid-April, according to County Public Health Director Tanner Kingery. Kingery said with or without testing, people with symptoms of the virus should isolate at home or seek medical help if they are in distress.
“The difference in response is negligible,” he said, clarifying that whether or not someone has been tested positive or not, they should isolate themselves from people and animals if they are experiencing symptoms.
Although there have been no reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, it is best for people who may be sick with the virus to limit contact with animals until more is known about the virus, he shared in a presentation on Tuesday morning. The main concern is transmission from one person to another through touching fur where the virus may be living.
He recommended that people with symptoms or known to have the virus have another person care for pets, but if the sick person must care for a pet, they should wear a facemask and wash hands before and after interaction with the pet.
While Ouray County does not have any test kits and no one in the county who has tested positive for the highly contagious virus, they can be tested if admitted to Montrose Memorial Hospital. Telluride Medical Center and the Uncompahgre Medical Center in Norwood also have test kits.
The National Guard, which already came to Telluride this week, offered to come to other counties to conduct mobile testing with a limited number of kits. Kingery and Ouray County Emergency Manager Glenn Boyd discussed the offer with the county manager, attorney and commissioners at a Tuesday morning meeting, but did not decide to invite the National Guard yet.
Boyd and Kingery explained that the county is uncertain of how many people may possibly have the virus and want to be tested. The public health office received at least two calls from people concerned about symptoms, but Kingery said they did not meet the criteria for testing. He added that Dr. Joel Gates of the Mountain Medical Center in Ridgway has had several patients with symptoms contact him.
If someone wants to be tested, they should call their medical provider who will confirm whether they qualify for a test based on their symptoms and personal history. People with symptoms should only go to an emergency room or call 911 if they are having a medical emergency such as difficulty breathing.
On Monday afternoon, Ouray County Commissioners passed a local disaster emergency declaration, stating that, “the presence of the COVID-19 virus on the Western Slope constitutes a local disaster emergency that warrants the mobilizing of emergency response and the furnishing of aid and assistance. The declaration came within hours after Ouray City Council declared a state of emergency, and less than 24 hours before Ridgway followed suit.
Boyd explained, “The reason why we are so concerned about this virus is: it can stay in the air for as much as three hours, and it can be up to three days on hard surfaces. The fatality rate for the common flu is 0.1 percent, but for this virus is 0.3 to 0.5 percent. This is why we want to limit public interactions as much as possible. Also, you can have the virus and no symptoms so can be contagious to others without knowing it.”
Kingery, who is the incident commander, said, “The best way to stop the transmission of the virus is to declare a disaster emergency similar to nearby governments.”
Public buildings owned by the county, City of Ouray and Town of Ridgway were closed to the public this week, with many government employees working remotely and many services still available online or by phone. The county passed a resolution to conduct all county commissioner meetings virtually with call-in options for the public.
The public health agency is the main COVID-19-related information contact for businesses, organizations and residents in the county. The county scheduled a COVID-19 disaster emergency policy group meeting by zoom teleconferencing software for 10:30 a.m. Thursday.