Las Animas Huerfano Counties District Health Department

Las Animas Huerfano Counties District Health Department Executive Director Kim Gonzales is seen speaking at a County Commissioner’s meeting in 2019.

A Huerfano County man in his 70s with underlying health conditions is the first area resident to die who’s death is related to COVID-19, announced the district health department on Tuesday.

“The Huerfano County Coroner’s Office and Las Animas Huerfano Counties District Health Department have confirmed the first COVID-19-related death of a Huerfano County resident,” wrote the department. “The man tested positive for COVID-19 prior to his death.”

Once the coroner’s autopsy report has been finished, Gonzales said they would be able to say for certain whether the death was “COVID-19 caused” or if it was “COVID-19 related” due to the fact that the gentleman had prior underlying health conditions.

“He was still in his isolation period,” said Public Health Department Executive Director Kim Gonzales. “We won’t have any more information until an autopsy is done.

“We are very saddened to confirm that we have lost a member of our community to COVID-19,” Gonzales said. “We extend our deep condolences to his loved ones. We are so sorry for their loss.”

As for the two Las Animas COVID-19 cases that were announced on Monday, Gonzalez said they are in recovery at home and reiterated that they were two completely separate cases from each other. Two cases coming in one day was something Gonzales said worried her as people begin getting out into crowds and traveling again.

“I think we need to boost more awareness out there,” said Gonzales. “The virus is picking back up and we also need to make aware to all those people coming into our community of our public health order. We do urge the mask and social distancing and people should be respectful of the communities they come in and frequent or visit.”

Gonzales added that she has seen a lot of frustration with people that live here in the community seeing so many out of town visitors coming in that aren’t following the health department’s guidance and requirements.

To help those coming in to be aware of what they can do to protect everyone else, Gonzales encouraged businesses and organizations to increase signage and update website information to make sure customers are aware of the expectations. The health department is also working on ways to further disseminate guidance and requirements.

“We’re going to be pushing some campaign material as we go into the Fourth of July,” said Gonzales. “You wish people would take this seriously. We are seeing a rise in cases across the nation and also in Colorado. For us to have two cases in one day, that was very unusual.”

With local social distancing and mask wearing remaining fairly lax throughout the community, Gonzales said she felt there is a high potential for more cases, which also means a potential for more COVID-19 deaths.

“I don’t know if it will come from the exposures of the last two confirmed cases, or if it will be different isolated cases, but it’s bound to happen,” said Gonzales. “Especially with all the increased travel and it being a holiday weekend.”

The health department has seen a correlation between a surge in cases and Memorial Day weekend several weeks ago and there’s a worry that the Fourth of July could also bring along with it a spike.

To prevent this danger, the City of Trinidad, Las Animas County, as well as Gonzales, have all expressed the importance of adhering to socially distanced festivities over the weekend and to continue to wear masks when going into public places or in crowds. Already, the department has had to issue notices of possible community exposure from a large gathering.

Also on Tuesday, the Health Department publicly notified the public of a potential exposure to COVID-19 for anyone who attended a birthday party for Ann Valdez on Sunday, June 28.

“Anyone who was at the birthday party in Starkville June 28 should monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 at least through July 11,” said Gonzales.

“Individuals who were at the birthday party celebration for Ann Valdez in Starkville and are showing any symptoms of COVID-19 should remain at home and contact their health care provider,” the notice said. “If you are having symptoms, do not go to work, stay home, isolate and get tested.”

Anyone having symptoms, even if they are mild, should get tested for COVID-19. Testing is available at Mt San Rafael Hospital. Call ahead for testing at 719-846-9213.

Load comments