COVID-19 outbreak reported in San Juan County


Four people test positive


A COVID-19 outbreak has been reported in San Juan County in connection to a Silverton business, with four people testing positive for the virus.

San Juan County Public Health officials announced the outbreak on Friday and began contacting those who may have been exposed, meaning they were in close contact with an infected person for at least 15 minutes without personal protective equipment.

State guidelines define an “outbreak” as two or more COVID-19 cases confirmed at one location within a 14-day period. This is the county’s first.

San Juan County Public Health Director Becky Joyce said the health department will not disclose the name of the business in order to protect employee privacy, and because the business is closed to the public and therefore not considered a risk to the public.  

“It’s not a business that visitors stream in and out of on a regular basis,” Joyce said. “If it was a restaurant or something with a lot of customers or visitors, we would have done everything to let the public know. When a business has minimal employees, naming the business would give away identities. In a small town, you have to protect people's health information – not the business so much, but the employees. We’re trying to protect their privacy at this time.”

Health officials interviewed more than 30 people in the contact tracing process, and 16 were tested locally. The health department identified 17 individuals who are required to quarantine for two weeks, including the four who tested positive.

SJCPH has community-based COVID-19 testing equipment that yields results within 15 minutes. Tests that come back negative are sent to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to confirm the results.

Joyce said the local health department will retest quarantined individuals a week after their initial test. 

The four infected individuals are Silverton residents whose symptoms ranged from moderate to severe, and some were asymptomatic. Local health officials warned that at least one infected person also tested positive with antibodies last spring, which means antibodies do not indicate immunity.      

Despite Silverton’s small size and heavy summer tourist traffic, Joyce said she does not consider the town to be at higher risk for outbreaks.

“There are likely more positive cases than anyone realizes, so therefore the public needs to take responsibility by masking, social distancing and following public health orders,” Joyce said. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed that we’ve identified all close contacts and that everyone is doing their due diligence by following the quarantine and isolation orders. We’ll know more in the next one to two weeks." 

Joyce said the business where the outbreak originated was proactive and assisted health officials with identifying and contacting potentially exposed individuals.

“When the first person tested positive and then the next, it was alarming, we didn’t know what to expect, and we had to brace ourselves knowing it could become pretty big,” she said. “We were fortunate that people were cooperative, that we had great staff to perform immediate testing like we prepared for, and that we have a lot of great resources and a great Incident Management Team."

San Juan County reported one other confirmed COVID-19 case in May. The outbreak brings the total case count to five.