Littleton agencies ready if coronavirus gets worse

Schools canceling travel, most local events still going on as planned

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Officials in Littleton are gearing up in case they need to respond to an outbreak of COVID-19, or novel coronavirus.

Though there were no known cases in Littleton as of March 13, three cases of the virus had been identified in Arapahoe County. Tri-County Health Department, which covers Arapahoe, Douglas and Adams counties, is leading the local response.

Littleton Adventist Hospital has adequate testing and patient isolation capacity, said Stephen Cobb, the vice president of Centura Health's Metro Group, which includes Littleton Adventist and seven other metro-area hospitals.

Cobb declined to say how many isolation rooms the hospital has, saying the hospital can quickly create more than its current number. Cobb also declined to say how many COVID-19 test kits the hospital has on hand, but stressed that the number is sufficient.

Littleton Adventist began ramping up its epidemic response protocols in the 2000s in response to a series of infectious disease outbreaks, Cobb said. The hospital recently held a meeting with numerous local agencies including South Metro Fire Rescue, Tri-County Health, Arapahoe County and others to go over epidemic response protocols.

“It's important we try to contain this, because nobody has immunity to this one,” Cobb said. “If everyone gets sick, it can make it hard to run a society.”

Cobb urged anyone with a respiratory illness to call first before coming to an emergency room so that medical personnel can meet them outside.

South Metro Fire Rescue is altering some of its protocols in response to the outbreak, said Jon Adams, the agency's assistant chief of operations.

South Metro set up an incident support team, Adams said, similar to teams set up to respond to wildfires or natural disasters, which meets twice weekly to discuss developments.

The agency has also modified its dispatcher call scripts to inquire about COVID-19 symptoms and signs, including flu-like symptoms and recent international travel.

If a caller may be at risk for COVID-19, responding crews will only send in two personnel instead of up to six on a normal call, Adams said.

South Metro is fully stocked with protective and sanitary equipment, Adams said.

“We're well ahead of this,” Adams said.

The Littleton Police Department is identifying essential and less-essential staff in case an outbreak afflicts numerous employees at once, said LPD spokesman Cmdr. Trent Cooper.

“We need to keep officers on hand to respond to emergencies,” Cooper said. “Detectives and crime scene folks can work on an on-call basis.”

Cooper said he's not aware of the department's role if called upon to enforce quarantines, though he said if quarantine orders are signed by a judge, they would be treated similar to restraining orders.

City of Littleton staff have reviewed the city's emergency operations plan, said city spokeswoman Kelli Narde. The city has not postponed or canceled any events, she said.

“We're staying in touch with the health department and all our local partners,” Narde said. “It's all operating pretty seamlessly right now.”

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