Larimer County Public Health Director Tom Gonzales answers questions on response to coronavirus. Note: This interview was held on March 18. Fort Collins Coloradoan
If you think you might have the new coronavirus, Larimer County health officials want to know about it.
With the limited availability of testing for COVID-19, the health department has set up an online dashboard through which residents may self-report symptoms they are experiencing, such as cough, fever and shortness of breath.
The health department wants to get a better sense of how widespread the disease is in the community, spokesperson Katie O’Donnell said.
Beyond test results, officials don’t know how many people are sick and whether cases are increasing, she said. They also want to see whether efforts to slow the spread of the disease are being effective.
“We’re hoping that it will help us look at whether our physical distancing is making an impact,” O’Donnell said.
The dashboard can be reached through the county’s COVID-19 website (https://bit.ly/3aaoU97) and by clicking on the “What you can do” prompt. Scroll down to the section marked “If you are sick.”
The questionnaire asks about when symptoms started and what they are. Submitted information goes into a database but the identity of those providing it is kept confidential.
As of Thursday afternoon, Larimer County had 61 confirmed coronavirus cases, according to the state health department. More than 400 people had submitted information to the county’s coronavirus dashboard by Thursday.
Information on the dashboard includes graphs with timelines for people reporting the onset of symptoms and the towns where they live.
Until testing is widely available, health officials are assuming people experiencing COVID-19 symptoms have the disease rather than flu or the common cold, O’Donnell said.
“We are optimistic there will be more testing available in the next few weeks,” she said.
In a video posted on the dashboard site, county Public Health Director Tom Gonzales urged people who are feeling ill to isolate themselves.
Having a better idea of the extent of the coronavirus in the community is important, he said.
“The more information we get, the more informed we are in making decisions moving forward,” he said.
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Kevin Duggan is a senior columnist and reporter. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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