Local Authorities Announce Action Plans to Combat Growing Tide of Coronavirus Cases

Don Angell, director of emergency management of Teller County, speaks during a press conferencing announcing the new auxiliary medical site in Woodland Park, Colo., on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. The surge hospital facility is the first to open in the Pikes Peak region, prepared to take in patients if the hospitals run out of beds during the COVID-19 pandemic. The site contains 50 beds with a surge up to 120 beds, and is equipped with oxygen. "As we know we are in a war, a war of a different kind, " said Angell. "This is going to be won by the boots on the ground." (Chancey Bush/ The Gazette)

~ by Trevor Phipps ~

Teller County has experienced a slight increase in coronavirus cases. But luckily, our area is lagging behind the spike in pandemic deaths in neighboring El Paso County, which has the most COVID-19 fatalities in the state.

Teller’s number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 slightly increased last week to 11, with one of the previous incidents resulting in death. Statewide the numbers have grown to more than 4,170 by Friday afternoon and 111 deaths. El Paso County, meanwhile, has recorded 18 deaths related to the coronavirus epidemic.

As a result of the fact that Colorado is a hot spot for the pandemic, Teller County has taken more steps to be proactive in case the number of cases locally spikes in the near future.

 Two weeks ago, various county entities got together to form the tellercovid.com website. The website was put together to be a one-stop-shop for information related to the virus outbreak.

The site is updated in real time and shows how many cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed across the world. The site also posts other local information that relates to the pandemic such as changes to the way the county will be conducting business during these unprecedented times.

The county recently posted on the site the fact that local emergency medical services have teamed up with the “Whats App” cell phone application. On the site, county officials ask everyone within the county to download the app for future medical concerns.

 According to county medical director Dr. Jeremy DeWall, the app does not replace the 911 emergency medical services but it can help aid the process. “This is not a substitute for calling 911 in an emergency,” DeWall said in a video on the teller covid website. “If you feel you need medical care, evaluation or transport please call 911. The What’s App platform is being used by emergency services once they arrive at your home in order to help evaluate you in a safer manner for yourself as well as the providers.”

No More Public Meetings

The website also informed the public that all of the board of county commissioners’ meetings will now be held online. Those who wish to attend the meetings can go to the website for a link and they can submit questions to ask during the meeting ahead of time.

 The county’s new spot online also offers a live stream page that allows county officials to address the public for various reasons related to the outbreak. Last Friday, the county held a live stream community response symposium that was open to anyone wishing to login between 1 and 3 p.m.

The symposium featured several county leaders including representatives from the Teller County Sheriff’s Office, Ute Pass Regional Health Service District, Teller County Health & Environment and others. The discussion was led by Teller County Sheriff’s Commander Greg Couch and Deputy Renee Bunting, and it addressed questions from the public regarding the stress and impacts caused by the pandemic.

The new Tellercovid.com also features podcasts put out by various county officials that discuss different topics related to the pandemic. Last week the podcasts consisted of one about the city of Victor, a podcast describing how EMS response works, and another regarding economic impact assistance programs.

During the podcast last Wednesday called COVID-19 Economic Impact Assistance, County Commission Chairman Marc Dettenreider informed the public of the various steps the government entities are taking to help people who have lost their jobs and small businesses who are suffering. During the podcast, various actions were cited, including the city of Victor announcing that they will not be charging residents for water for the time being.

According to the county medical director, the number of people tested so far has not been announced, but county officials are focusing their testing efforts on certain people. “I can tell you that we are doing testing when it’s appropriate,” Dr. DeWall explained. “What that means is that it is the sickest of the sick folks and it’s also are first responders and our health care providers. The reason for that is if they are symptomatic. We need to get them back out to our community so that they can continue to help us.”

DeWall also said that the county has been working various angles to get enough testing supplies, and that for now the supplies are being used in certain circumstances. “We are all working together to obtain as much as we can through pretty much any route

FILE – This undated file photo provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows CDC’s laboratory test kit for the new coronavirus. (CDC via AP, File)

that we can,” the medical director said. “Our issue isn’t that we have a massive shortage of supplies, our issue is that we want to appropriately use them. We want to be mindful of how we use that testing equipment and use them for the appropriate folks. We know that it is hear we just need to use the testing equipment for the right people at the right time.”

The county medical director also stated that even though other areas have a shortage of ventilators, the county has not yet had to address that problem.

“Across the United States and quite frankly across the world, we know that there is a shortage of ventilators,” DeWall said. “We currently have ventilators to care for all of the people in our community. We have a great hospital system in our community that’s able to also help and care for us during these events. We do have abilities to obtain extra ventilators and we not only work closely with the county but we also work with the region, and with our state and federal governments to obtain supplies. We are trying to be as prepared and proactive as we can. We have as many methods in place to utilize our resources the best as possible.”

Last week, both Colorado Governor Jared Polis and U.S. President Donald Trump held press conferences that told the public that they are now requesting that everyone wear some sort of mask if they are going to be in a public place such as a grocery store. The purpose of having people wear masks that cover their mouth and nose is to prevent people that have the virus. and do not yet know it. from passing the disease onto others.

The CDC and the state health department both ask that people do not use N95 masks. and to save them for health care professionals. Both entities recommend that people make their own using some sort of cloth material.