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COVID-19 patient who died in El Paso Co. interacted with others at Colorado Springs Bridge Center from late Feb. to early March

Posted at 3:03 PM, Mar 13, 2020

COLORADO SPRINGS — The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced the first death from COVID-19 reported in Colorado on Friday.

The patient was an El Paso County woman in her 80s with underlying health conditions, and health officials say she lived alone and not in any kind of assisted living facility. She died at UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central. The hospital received her positive test result for COVID-19 after her death, but they are waiting for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to confirm.

To protect patient privacy, UCHealth said it is not sharing specific information about patients.

The state announced Saturday that El Paso County Public Health learned that the woman attended bridge games at the Colorado Springs Bridge Center from Feb. 27 through March 3.

The agency said that if you or a close contact attended the Colorado Springs Bridge Center between late February and early March, AND are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, call your health care provider immediately. Do not go into the facility prior to calling ahead.

The announcement said this is especially important for people who attended the following games at the center:

  • 02/27/2020 Thursday Evening Unit Pairs
  • 02/28/2020 Friday Morning Pairs
  • 02/28/2020 Friday Morning Pairs
  • 02/29/2020 299er Pairs
  • 03/01/2020 299er Swiss
  • 03/03/2020 499'rs

The agency said during a press conference Saturday that they know the woman interacted with around 100 people while playing bridge. While investigating the case, they found another presumptive positive case in a man who did play bridge with her. That man is the third case in El Paso County.

This is the first instance of community spread in El Paso County.

“We’re extremely concerned about possible transmission both at the tournament and in communities after they went home,” said Kimberly Pattison, EPCPH Communicable Disease Program Manager. “Many attendees were older people who might be especially vulnerable to severe illness from COVID-19.”

Her death made William Overbeck a bit nervous to go into the hospital for an upcoming surgery. "Scares me, just because I'm going to be in a weakened situation during this surgery. I have to be at the hospital, like, two to three days," said Overbeck.

News5 also spoke with Dr. David Steinbruner from UCHealth, who said the best advice is to chat with your provider first if you are nervous about elective surgery. Steinbruner also explained their process if someone enters the hospital who might have the virus.

"Put you in a negative pressure room, where we're actually making sure that you're isolating even the air from everybody else. Putting a mask on you first, doing that, and then using the proper PPE (personal protective equipment) and then testing you and putting you in the appropriate location, if you have to be hospitalized," Steinbruner said.

He also told us they have been limiting the amount of visitors in the hospital, and have increased the number of ventilators they have.

"I certainly understand people's concerns, that's completely understandable, but I have to say that ironically, a surgical suite and going for surgery is probably the safest place in the entire county you can be in, because we actually use every precaution to prevent infection... We're working very diligently to take care of them and the community, and we're confident that we can do this, no matter how bad this gets," Steinbruner said.

Some encouraging news coming out of Saturday, too. The first reported case in El Paso County, a man in his 40's who self-isolated, has recovered and is back to his normal life.

Gov. Jared Polis said while state officials expected a death announcement during the spread of the virus, it was still difficult to hear and share the news.

"We feel their pain, we grieve for them, and we grieve with them, as we will for all of the victims of this virus and of course we vow to honor the memory of those who succumb by working as hard as we can to protect as many vulnerable Coloradans as possible," he said.

Polis also said Colorado currently has to send samples out of state for testing, which is why it takes more than 24 hours to get results.

"We hope that in the next week or two, very likely, a couple of our larger networks, the ones working on this include UCHealth and Childrens, will likely develop the ability to do in state testing on the turn around which means they'll likely be able to some capacity to have a 24 hour turn around," Polis said.

Despite that fact, Polis said about 10% of all tests done nationwide have come from Colorado because state health officials stepped up the response before other states did.

As of Saturday approximately 800 people statewide have been tested, according to CDPHE.

Gov. Polis announced earlier Friday that eight people are now hospitalized and three are in critical condition. Polis said there are "likely thousands of cases in Colorado" of people who have not been tested or who have tests pending. The state is also now banning gatherings of 250 or more people.

News5 will have more information on this developing story as it becomes available.

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Get the latest from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Click here for the latest update on the number of cases, the age, gender and location of presumptive positive, indeterminate and confirmed cases from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

People who have general questions about coronavirus disease 2019 can call CO HELP at 303-389-1687 or 1-877-462-2911 for answers in many languages. Email COHELP@RMPDC.org for answers in English.