Polis Confirms Community Spread Of New Coronavirus In Colorado High Country

An array of medical masks on a bed at St. Joseph Hospital, March 10, 2020.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
An array of medical masks on a bed at St. Joseph Hospital, March 10, 2020.

Gov. Jared Polis confirmed on Wednesday that the new coronavirus has spread in the high country without being detected by public health workers.

The state suspects that they’ll find this phenomenon, known as community spread, along the Front Range.

In one concrete move, the governor is advising older people and those with compromised immune systems to avoid the high country. Nine cases have been diagnosed so far in Aspen.

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“What we saw today was evidence of community spread. It appears the virus will be disproportionately hitting our resort and mountain communities first,” Polis said.

According to the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, community spread means there are cases and outbreaks in certain communities where people became infected and health officials are unable to identify the source.

It's an indication that the disease is more widespread and spreading relatively quickly, ahead of testing, within a community.

With COVID-19, most people experience relatively mild symptoms and may not know they are carrying and transmitting it. But if it is spreading without being traced by medical professionals, that also means it may reach vulnerable populations and overwhelm the medical system.

At the White House Tuesday, the nation's top expert on infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke about the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S.

"There are parts of the country right now that are having community spread, in which the risk there is clearly a bit more … and you know the places: Washington State, California, New York and Florida," Fauci said in a news briefing.

In Colorado the total number of presumptive positive cases to 33, with one indeterminate case that is being treated as presumed positive.

The state lab has run tests on about 300 people since testing started on Feb. 28.