El Paso County Health explains phases to reopen won't happen 'overnight'

Posted at 12:09 PM, Apr 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-14 14:09:49-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — At an El Paso Board of County Commissioners meeting Tuesday, a presentation made by the El Paso County Department of Public Health illustrates the process to recover from the pandemic and what the future will look like.

Dr. Leon Kelly, who is acting as the county's deputy medical director during the outbreak, said the efforts made by community members to flatten the curve and slow the spread of the virus is producing positive outcomes, but there is still a long way to go.

Kelly explained four phases needed to go through in order to "reopen" and roll back the restrictions in place, such as the stay-at-home order and social distancing guidelines:

  1. Slow the spread
  2. Reopen, state by state
  3. Establish protections then lift all restrictions
  4. Rebuild our readiness for the next pandemic

Kelly said we are in Phase One right now where there is "exponential growth." According to the road map, this phase involves community spread and efforts to slow it, such as "population-level controls" and "extensive social distancing."

"The thing that you're trying to do is slow the transmission from one person to the next," he said.

Phase Two is to "reopen, deliberately and incrementally" by keeping track of the virus and controlling the spread. To move into this phase, Kelly said the department will conduct more contact tracing and testing.

In this phase, there will be reduced social distancing in environments with lower risk populations, such as businesses and schools. High-risk populations will still be asked to stay at home and there will not be large gatherings in this phase as well.

Phase Three will "establish protection and lift all restrictions."

"The reality for phase three is you need one of a couple things: you either need effective therapeutics or vaccines," Kelly said.

Health officials in this phase will continue "case-level" controls and have medical intervention and vaccines. Then, social gatherings will return to normal and have phased "deployment of medical intervention."

The final phase means preparing for the next pandemic and prioritizing infectious disease responses. The focus will be "accelerated vaccine and therapeutic development technologies" as well as improving hospital capacity.

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