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First case of COVID-19 reported in La Plata County

Adult tested last week at Southwest Memorial Hospital’s drive-thru
San Juan Basin Public Health reported the first presumptive positive case of COVID-19 on Monday in La Plata County.

La Plata County announced its first presumptive positive case of COVID-19 on Monday, according to San Juan Basin Public Health.

The case is an adult resident of the county, but the health department said it would not release more details to protect the privacy of the patient.

The adult was tested last week at Southwest Memorial Hospital’s drive-thru clinic in Cortez, said Southwest Health System CEO Tony Sudduth. The La Plata County resident traveled to Cortez specifically for the test, he said.

“They came to Cortez, were tested and immediately returned to Durango without any contact with anyone within Montezuma County, other than our testing site personnel who took the appropriate precautions to prevent exposure,” Sudduth said on the hospital’s Facebook page Monday morning.

The person had not had contact with anyone in the Cortez area for 11 days before the test, SHS said.

In an email on Tuesday, Claire Ninde, spokeswoman for SJBPH, said, “We cannot speak to why this individual went to a hospital out of our jurisdiction – that would be a question for them to answer.” She added it is not uncommon for someone to be tested in a county outside of where they reside. The health department in the county would need to be notified, no matter where the individual was tested per state law, according to Ninde.

The case is being recorded as a La Plata County case, followed up by the San Juan Basin Public Health. Montezuma County still does not have a confirmed cases of COVID-19.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Colorado was reporting 912 cases with 7,701 people tested, and 11 deaths.

“San Juan Basin Public Health has been preparing for weeks as a case in our jurisdiction has been expected,” said Liane Jollon, executive director of SJBPH in a news release on Monday.

The local public health agency said it would trace who the person came in contact with and would continue to perform public health practices of disease control in partnership with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and local partners.

Part of the investigation involved interviewing the person to identify anyone who was exposed during an infectious period, and public health would follow up with the contacts exposed, Ninde said. Once those individuals were identified through contact tracing, they would have to isolate or quarantine according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s protocol, she added.

The La Plata County resident had traveled to a different part of the state prior to testing positive, according to Ninde.

“We are operating under the assumption that COVID-19 is circulating in our community and aggressive social distancing steps should be practiced by all residents,” Jollon said on Monday.

In light of a nationwide testing shortage, local health officials continue to urge people who believe they have COVID-19 symptoms – fever, cough and shortness of breath – or have been exposed to the virus, to practice self-quarantine or isolation.

Durango held its first drive-thru testing site at the La Plata County Fairgrounds on Friday and Saturday, testing select people at risk for the virus. During the two days of screening, around 70 people passed through, according to Ninde.

SJBPH will open the drive-thru screening again on Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Fairgrounds by appointment only. “We imagine we will use the remainder of the tests at the drive through site taking place tomorrow,” Ninde said on Tuesday. She added there was also testing being done at Pagosa Medical Center and Pagosa Urgent Care in Pagosa Springs.

The state lab conducting the tests is currently backed up, with results taking about eight to 10 days, according to Ninde. She added SJBPH “is working with the state health department and has requested additional tests for our area as soon as possible.”

Colorado has established a helpline for COVID-19 questions at (303) 389-1687.


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