Colorado’s First COVID Case, Skied Italy Mid February, Exposed Hundreds or More
A 30-year old skiing enthusiast who became Colorado’s first case of novel coronavirus this week spent mid-February in Italy, spent time with a friend who later tested positive, boarded multiple crowded international flights before arriving in Denver and heading for Rocky Mountain ski resorts in Keystone and Vail. He skied for five days before his fiancee drove him to a hospital in Frisco, Colorado where he tested positive for the virus.
On Wednesday night, St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco announced it was investigating a potential case of the novel coronavirus — officially known as coronavirus disease 19, or COVID-19 — after a patient with a recent history of travel to Italy came to the Summit County medical center’s emergency department with a possible respiratory illness earlier that day.
A test was performed by the state, which returned a presumptive positive result. The test will be sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for official confirmation, which is expected to take less than 48 hours. The case represents the first known case of COVID-19 in the state.
The patient is a California man in his 30s who was visiting Summit County. During a press conference Thursday afternoon, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis attempted ot allay fears about potential exposure risk, saying the man arrived Feb. 29 at Denver International Airport but wasn’t exhibiting symptoms at the time, so the risk of transmission was low.
Polis’s statements are emblematic of profound misunderstanding of an unseen virus that can remain asymptomatically contagious for as long as 29 days and that shows no evidence of being any less contagious simply because patients aren’t yet exhibiting symptoms. Viral shedding during the dormancy period remains extraordinarily high, making the disease difficult to track and extremely transmissible.
The man then traveled to Summit County in a rental car and skied at Keystone Resort and Vail Mountain. Health officials said the man stayed at a condo in Keystone, but they could not provide additional information about his whereabouts during his trip.
The man developed symptoms Tuesday and went in for testing the next day. He was later transported by his fiancee to a hospital in Jefferson County, where he is recovering in isolation until cleared by public health officials. His fiancee is in quarantine.
In Summit County, the man was with two friends, who are Denver-area residents and also are in quarantine. Public health officials are working to identify others who might have been exposed to the disease. Dr. Peter Banko, president and CEO of Centura Health, said four St. Anthony staff members who treated the patient also are being tested.
Journalists and medical workers who traveled to Italy to assist in and cover the outbreak there expressed shock at returning home and finding absolutely no protocol to determine if people traveling from Italy were infected carriers of the virus.