Denver confirms its first cases of coronavirus

Two people have tested positive for the virus.

(Source: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)

(Source: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)

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The City and County of Denver says two people have tested positive for COVID-19, the newest strain of the coronavirus that’s swept the globe since originating in China in 2019. The two cases, a man in his 40s and a woman in her 70s, are unrelated. One is the parent of a child at St. Anne’s Episcopal School, which closed early on Friday as a precautionary measure.

“Both individuals are symptomatic and isolated, but do not require hospitalization at this time,” the city said. The cases are considered “presumptive positive,” meaning they still need to be verified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At least seven individuals in the area have been quarantined, all at home, or will be quarantined soon, city health officials said Friday. Those in quarantine have been instructed to either log their temperatures or report to the city if they have a fever or other symptoms. Among those quarantined were family members of the Episcopal school parent.

Bob McDonald, executive director of the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, said the public at large should not panic. “People don’t need to stay at home,” he said.

Both of the people who tested positive had recently traveled to Vancouver and on a cruise. Both came to health officials to self-report their symptoms.

Mike Strott, a spokesperson for Mayor Michael Hancock, says his office is monitoring the situation and is in close contact with the city’s health department. Hancock’s office held a press conference on Monday detailing how the city was preparing.

The first case in Colorado, announced on Thursday, was a man in his 30s visiting Summit County from out of state; he’s now in isolation in Jefferson County. He traveled through DIA on his way to Summit, but Gov. Polis announced Thursday that he was asymptomatic and, as such, at a low risk for spreading the virus.

The second case is an elderly woman from Douglas County, who recently traveled abroad on a cruise. She is isolated at her home, per CDC guidelines.

While it’s taken a relatively longer time for COVID-19 to appear in Denver, local officials say they have been preparing for its arrival nonetheless. The Regional Transportation District has an “updated pandemic plan that will be implemented as necessary as the pandemic situation evolves,” according to its website. The plan has not been made publicly available.

RTD said it’s been cleaning buses and light rails daily with “industrial-strength disinfectant/antibacterial cleaner” and is purchasing additional sanitation products.

Denver Public Schools sent a letter to families on March 6 with the latest information from the state about the two cases. Schools will continue to operate on a normal schedule, according to DPS.

“Health officials have assured us there is still very low risk of exposure to the virus, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised school districts to work to minimize disruption to school activities in taking precautions against the virus. Also, Colorado health officials have emphasized that they are taking aggressive action to test for additional cases in order to keep risk low and to contain spread of the virus.”

Local service providers that work with people experiencing homelessness say they’re monitoring shelters for folks with any symptoms. They’re also notifying customers of publicly accessible hand-washing stations in Denver, including bathrooms at shelters, public toilets at either end of the 16th Street Mall and two city-owned mobile bathroom units.

COVID-19 has spread to more than 75 countries, sickening more than 95,000 people and killing more than 3,200, mostly in China. CPR has a handy FAQ about the virus that you should definitely read.

In short: Don’t panic. Wash your hands. Get your flu shot.

Esteban Hernandez contributed to this story.

This story is developing. We’ll add information as we receive it. 

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