I protect you, you protect me

SAN LUIS VALLEY - What do Alaska and the San Luis Valley have in common? Both are beautiful locations that rely on tourism for their economies, both have cities that regularly compete for the “coldest spot in the nation”, and both are working hard to protect their residents and visitors from COVID-19. Anchorage Office of Emergency Management has coined the phrase “I Protect You, You Protect Me” on their social media, and I believe this is a perfect sentiment for our close-knit Valley community as well. 

What does this phrase mean? It means we work together to protect each other from falling ill. We sometimes hear the question, “Why do I have to wear a cloth mask if it doesn’t protect me from breathing in viruses?” Well, “I Protect You, You Protect Me” is your answer. You are protecting someone else from the aerosol droplets you breathe, cough, or sneeze into the air by covering your nose and mouth. As a reminder, it doesn’t have to be a fancy mask to function well. Your mask can be an old bandana, rolled up t-shirt, or any other type of cloth you have available. 

While many people are waiting eagerly for the State to “open up” so they can get back to some semblance of normalcy, either for work or to enjoy their usual recreational activities, Public Health is working hard to continue the response to the pandemic. Though the curve in positive cases has currently plateaued at the State level, the virus is not any less deadly, and this curve is being monitored as we move into the “Safer at Home” phase. One activity we are working on with our healthcare partners is increasing local testing. The supply issue is improving, and we are now able to broaden our testing criteria. With more testing, we can collect more data, and with that data, we are better able to understand how the pandemic is affecting our region. Currently, there is not enough data for positive case numbers or transmission in the Valley to be able to make decisions regarding relaxing restrictions. 

The good news is some people who weren’t able to be tested before can now be tested. Generally, the labs processing the tests determine priority populations, and currently, that includes only symptomatic people. Along with frontline healthcare workers and hospitalized patients with symptoms, we can now test the following: 

  • First responders 
  • Patients in long-term care facilities or other residential settings such as homeless shelters or correctional facilities 
  • Patients over age 65 
  • Patients with certain underlying conditions*
  • Critical infrastructure workers*
  • People who work with vulnerable populations or in group residential settings. 

*See https://www.sanluisvalleyhealth.org/coronavirus-faq/ for definitions of these categories.

If you have COVID-like symptoms of fever, shortness of breath, and a dry cough, call one of the nurse lines or your primary care physician in order to be screened for testing eligibility. The nurse-lines are listed below.

  • Rio Grande Hospital: 719-657-4990
  • SLV Health: 719-589-2511 ext. 9
  • Valley Wide Health Systems: 719-589-3658 ext. 9

Although the pandemic has been hard on our local economy, it will recover, and plans at the regional level are in motion right now as to how to best support our local businesses. Our local SBDC Director, Jason Medina, would like to remind small businesses to search for funding available at https://choosecolorado.com/covid19/. Residents and visitors are encouraged to visit https://slvsupportlocal.com/ for ideas on how to support our neighbors’ livelihoods. Our community is resilient but can be even more so if we continue to reach out to help others financially during this difficult time. 

The current cumulative number of known positive cases that have occurred in the San Luis Valley is 27. This includes tested individuals as well as those identified through contact tracing. Twenty-one of those individuals have completed isolation, have improved symptoms, and have not had a fever for over 72 hours (without using fever-reducing medication). There have been 280 tests administered to date. See Regional and local numbers at http://www.slvemergency.org/slv-covid-19/, updated daily.

Information about the Safer at Home order, including business guidance for various sectors, can be found at the State Safer at Home website: https://covid19.colorado.gov/safer-at-home?fbclid=IwAR0a40IbP9M3Ak_rK1o3G5Ek2sYTfCmLXUuvC9tB81LieaGL-06yyX01EEw.