PUEBLO, Colorado — EVRAZ Rocky Mountain Steel has temporarily halted production at its steel-making facility and rail mill following an outbreak of COVID-19. Patrick Waldron, Director of Communications and Industry Affairs for EVRAZ North America, said the company is idling these portions of the facility for 72 hours for cleaning and sanitizing of the affected work areas.
This action was taken in consultation with officials from Pueblo County Public Health and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
An outbreak, meaning two or more positive tests, was first reported at the steel mill last month. Contact tracing is taking place to identify employees potentially exposed to individuals who tested positive for the virus.
"The health and safety of our employees remains our highest priority, as it has been throughout the pandemic, and we continue to consult with county and state health officials about our pandemic response," said Waldron.
Individual employees are being placed under quarantine in accordance with state guidelines where appropriate. The 72-hour idling began on Wednesday and will last through Friday.
Randy Evetts, Public Health Director for Pueblo County, said the outbreak is one of 30 active outbreaks that they are monitoring in the community. More people were tested for the virus on Monday and Tuesday than during the entire month of April.
"The modeling suggests that with the current trends in hospitalization that we will reach the capacity of hospitals in December," Evetts said. "Depending on what happens with the holidays, it could be at the beginning of December or it could be towards the end of December if we stay on the current trajectory."
The surge of infections is straining Pueblo's hospitals which are also admitting higher numbers of patients with other illnesses. Evetts said he's asked the governor and state health department to consider activating the state's alternative care facility set up at St. Mary Corwin.
"If that were to open up it would be a pressure relief valve for our hospitals because patients who didn't need to be in the hospital and occupying those beds could step down into that and that would make those beds available at the hospital," Evetts said.
He explained that most of the new infections are occurring at small family gatherings. He asks the community to limit that contact and follow the public health orders.