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San Miguel County issues 'shelter-in-place' order, plans to test entire community

This means people are required to stay inside except "essential" activities.

SAN MIGUEL COUNTY, Colo. — A "shelter in place" order went into effect in San Miguel County Wednesday and will last through at least April 3, according to Grace Franklin, the county's director of public health.

RELATED: What is a shelter-in-place order, and how does it compare to Colorado's current coronavirus measures?

This is just part of what the county is calling a new strategic plan to mitigate the catastrophic consequences of COVID-19, a press release on the county website said. The other part involves free county-wide blood testing for the novel coronavirus, which will be done through a private-public partnership with United Biomedical, a company that makes vaccines and other diagnostic tests. 

“It seemed like just an obvious thing to do, and we said we want to help in any way we can," said Mei Mei Hu, sitting next to her partner, Lou Reese, over Zoom video chat. 

The two run the group of bio-tech companies under United Biomedical and live in Telluride. They are offering their blood tests for COVID-19 free of charge to the community they live in. 

Not only would the test tell if someone has the virus, but it also shows if they've been infected with it in the past. 

The San Miguel County Department of Public Health and Environment will administer testing. San Miguel said it is the first county in the United States to implement a plan like this.

"So we’re just trying to see what the flow is and the movement of this virus in our community," said San Miguel County Medical Officer Dr. Sharon Grundy. 

The test is not mandatory, but the county wants a large data set to get a clearer picture of the virus in their community. They plan to test residents once — and then again 14 days later. 

“One of the things that we wanted to do was basically test an entire community to find out what is the outbreak prevalence? Right now we don’t know," said Hu. "Is it 3% that’s been exposed? 10%? So until we have those accurate numbers, it’s difficult to say what is the disease prevalence, and then as a result, what is the fatality ratio?”

Reese said ideally once they receive test results, they can begin targeted isolation vs. isolation of everyone. 

Franklin said they plan to test all 8,200 residents across the county.

Franklin added that the shelter-in-place would have happened regardless of the opportunity to test because of the "nature" of their area with ski resorts and visitors. 

"In recent days, our county has seen several critically ill residents requiring intensive hospitalization. In the last 48 hours there have been multiple cases in children under 4 years of age in regional Emergency Departments with serious symptoms concerning for COVID-19," the release said.

RELATED: Colorado coronavirus blog: March 16-18:

RELATED: Colorado COVID-19 cases: March 16-18

The public health order listed these guidelines:

  • Shelter-in-place, which the county defined as "limiting gatherings of people as necessary to protect public health."
  • Prohibition of all events more than 10 people. 
  • Prohibition of all events at daycare centers, child care centers, home child care centers, private schools and day schools, community recreational centers, ice rinks and libraries.
  • Prohibition of all events at food establishments except for the provision of takeout and delivery of food.
  • Cease all activities at business facilities in the county except for minimum basic operations and essential services.
  • Cease operations and reservations to short-term lodging. 
  • All public transportation is considered an event.
  • Visitors to San Miguel County are directed to return home immediately. All non-resident homeowners are strongly encouraged to leave the county and return to their primary place of residence.

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