Eagle County public health officials are investigating a group of 11 positive COVID-19 cases among teens in the Roaring Fork Valley, but in some cases they have been hampered by lack of cooperation.
“Disease researchers have noted an unwillingness among some infected individuals and families to isolate themselves at home and share information about events where other people would have been exposed,” Eagle County said in a statement Tuesday. “Officials say the investigation is ongoing and more cases may emerge in the coming days.”
The group of cases is “primarily” among people ages 16-18, the county said. The initial spread “was associated with private social gatherings, resulting in 11 confirmed cases among youth in the Roaring Fork Valley.”
County Communications Director Kris Widlak clarified that the disease is believed to have spread when friends were meeting rather than at a specific type of reunion party.
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The Eagle County Public Health Department has been cautious until Tuesday to identify when cases specifically arise in Roaring Fork Valley. Jebel and most of Basalt are in Eagle County. However, the information was released because the coronavirus is a community problem and requires community cooperation to limit its spread, Widlak said.
The investigation is not an effort to stigmatize anyone, Widlak said. It is an effort to identify potentially exposed people.
Health department officials declined to say how many of the 11 teens who tested positive were cooperative and how many refused to cooperate.
“It has been a challenge to get a list of people” with whom the teens have been in contact for the past 14 days, Widlak said.
The group encouraged Eagle County Public Health and Environment to raise its performance indicator from “comfortable” to “cautious” due to the number of new cases and the potential for spread.
Widlak told The Aspen Times on Monday that the county had 26 new confirmed cases in the past five days.
Heath Harmon, the director of public health, said the group emphasizes the continued need for 6 feet of physical distance, frequent handwashing, wearing a face covering in public, staying home when sick, and getting tested immediately if there are symptoms.
“It is not about personal risk tolerance, it is about making decisions that help protect the community,” Harmon said in a statement. “We need to coexist with this virus until a vaccine is available and do it in a way that helps limit its spread.”
The county does not identify specific individuals who test positive and does not identify companies where people who test positive work. While the cases in the latter group involve residents of Eagle County, it could easily be extended to Garfield and Pitkin counties due to blurred county lines and social interactions that cross the boundaries. The investigation is a coordinated effort between the three counties, Eagle County said. Disease control measures are identical across the three counties. They include:
■ Anyone who is confirmed to have COVID-19 should be isolated in their home for 10 days from the time symptoms started.
■ All close contacts of a known case of COVID-19 must be quarantined in the home for 14 days from the last date of exposure. Close contacts are people living in the same household, intimate partners, and anyone who has spent more than 15 minutes less than 6 feet with a confirmed case.
■ Close contacts of known cases have a significantly higher risk of infection than people who had limited contact with a case. Quarantine helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 that can occur before a person develops symptoms or is infected with the virus and is asymptomatic.
■ Close contacts who are symptomatic should contact their medical provider and seek evidence immediately.
■ Close contacts who are asymptomatic should wait 5 to 7 days from the last exposure date to search for the test. Testing just after an exposure may be too early in the incubation period to detect the virus.