Cook: Protecting our community from COVID-19
Our teams at Vail Health have been preparing for COVID-19 for nearly two months. In January, Vail Health established a specific COVID-19 community-wide task force that began meeting weekly to plan and prepare. On March 1, the task force began meeting multiple times a day.
Internally, within the Vail Health health care system, which includes Colorado Mountain Medical, Shaw Cancer Center and Howard Head Sports Medicine, our guiding principles have been the safety and wellness of the staff; the safety of and service to patients; and maintaining daily operations, including emergency services. The internal task force includes two epidemiologists, PhDs, infection preventionists, safety coordinators, surgeons, emergency room physicians, doctors, nurses and providers.
On March 6, prior to the first positive case of COVID-19 in Eagle County, and one day after the first case in Colorado was identified in Summit County, Vail Health and Colorado Mountain Medical established the first dedicated screening and testing facility in Colorado. The drive-up facility in Gypsum is by appointment only and serves all primary care providers in the Eagle River Valley.
On that same date, in an effort to proactively protect staff and patients, Vail Health Hospital began pre-screening patients and visitors before entering the hospital for symptoms of COVID-19. On March 11, a visitor policy was implemented to reduce the amount of foot traffic through the facility.
On March 11, Vail Health and Colorado Mountain Medical established a designated respiratory clinic at Vail Urgent Care, which focuses on non-emergency patients with respiratory symptoms. The clinic, open seven days a week, is by appointment through primary care physicians.
We thank our partners in the community for their diligence and ongoing collaboration. Eagle County Public Health has been proactive and communicative with entities across the county, and their decision to declare a state of emergency early in this process on March 7 has proven to be a terrific administrative tool, allowing us to receive additional supplies from the state prior to other counties. Continued collaboration and partnership are necessary to help us through this situation.
There is a lot of information in the news and on the internet about COVID-19. In our role as the community’s health care provider, we want to educate you on the proper steps to take if you need to seek care locally.
- First and foremost, call a primary care provider. If you do not have one, please visit our COVID-19 webpage at http://www.vailhealth.org/covid19 for a list of local providers.
- Your primary care physician will conduct a verbal screening over the phone, and based on your symptoms, he/she will provide further guidance about where to go for care. Because some symptoms are similar to other medical issues, such as flu or strep throat, it is important for you to speak to a physician first.
- Follow all physician instructions.
- We do not want people coming to the emergency department unless it is a life-threatening emergency.
Remember to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Wash or sanitize your hands often, try not to touch your face while in public and stand at least six feet away from others who are coughing or sneezing (droplets are the method of transmission).
As the situation continues to evolve in our community, below are local informational pages.
- For operational information regarding Vail Health COVID-19 procedures, visit: http://www.vailhealth.org/covid19
- For official COVID-19 Eagle County resources, please visit http://www.ecemergency.org/ or call the Colorado Health Emergency Line (CO-Help) at 1-877-462-2911. Language interpretation is available.
Our teams have been nimble and are adjusting quickly, calmly and with professionalism to the ever-changing COVID-19 situation. We are constantly evaluating and evolving to meet the healthcare needs of the community. Many thanks to our patients and community members for your support and understanding. Though these are difficult times, I am proud of Vail Health’s response and honored to be a member of this incredible team and wonderful community.
Will Cook is the president and CEO of Vail Health.
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