San Miguel County orders new quarantine measures and will test all residents for COVID-19
It felt surreal to have the National Guard conducting drive-through blood tests for COVID-19 in town this week, even though it was just a small sampling of the most urgent cases. And now, all San Miguel County residents are going to be tested for the virus.
Word of the mass testing came over the radio, along with unprecedented quarantine restrictions; San Miguel County residents are being told to “shelter at home,” to only venture out for essentials like food or medicine, and almost all public buildings are closed. Schools, lodging accommodations, and the ski resort have been shut down. Visitors, the lifeblood in a tourist economy like ours, are being asked to leave.
County Medical Officer Sharon Grundy’s voice broke as she spoke on KOTO. As of March 18, there were still zero “confirmed” COVID-19 cases because of the scant testing resources, but Grundy has been on the front lines and knew that number was misrepresentative. Already there have been several critically ill patients requiring hospitalization and multiple children under the age of 4 with serious symptoms.
Telluride is a small, rural town, with high epidemiological risk factors and a limited amount of medical supplies. Health officials said that we need to be proactive. A local couple affiliated with United Biomedical made a generous offer—the company’s COVID-19 antibody tests are being made available for free to all residents county-wide. The plan is to follow up with testing in two weeks, to determine how the virus is spreading. It’s still unclear how testing will proceed, whether it will be a drive-through station or if volunteers will go door to door, and who will be tested first. But if we can identify and isolate people with the virus we can decelerate its transmission.
The plan echoes what was done in Vo Euganeo, a small town in Italy, that was able to reduce transmission by 90 percent by mass testing, applying strict quarantines, and isolating all positive cases. While deaths soar to nearly 3,000 in Italy, Vo Euganeo has reported no new cases since March 13. The hope is that Telluride can model the efficacy of these practices here in the U.S. and help other communities cope with the crisis.
Telluride has the same COVID-19 risk factors as other ski resorts—a constant stream of national and international travelers, crowded restaurants and bars, and tightly packed gondola cabins. Towns like ours are poised to be epicenters of this epidemiological event, but until this week, the response has been muted. Some residents were surprised by the school and ski resort closures, and others continued to congregate.
And indeed, these are the times that bring us together—albeit virtually. Group texts, FaceTime, Zoom cocktail hours, online learning. (In some ways, we’re connected in a way that’s never been possible before.) Neighbors leaving food and supplies on doorsteps. Pharmacists in face masks delivering medicine to people on the sidewalk.
The very best place to get local information now is the San Miguel County website, but below are a few other important sites to check. We’re all in this together. Stay healthy and take care of each other.
Volunteer: Volunteer@tchnetwork.org or call 970-728-3844
Small business economic disaster relief: SBA.gov/disaster
Individual economic relief: Telluride Foundation Good Neighbor Fund, firstname.lastname@example.org
SHELTER IN PLACE:
- Prohibition of all events more than 10 people.
- Prohibition of all events at daycare centers, child care centers, home child care center, private schools and day schools, community recreational center, ice rinks, and libraries.
- Prohibition of all events at food establishments except for the provision of takeout and delivery of food.
- Cease all activities at business facilities in the county except for minimum basic operations and essential services.
- Cease operations and reservations to short-term lodging.
- All public transportation is considered an event.
- Visitors to San Miguel County are directed to return home immediately. All non-resident homeowners are strongly encouraged to leave the county and return to their primary place of residence.