A Colorado National Guard soldier who was on mission helping with the new coronavirus pandemic has tested positive for the virus, the guard announced Saturday.
The state health department has determined the soldier was exposed to the coronavirus during previous travel, the guard said Sunday.
He was medically screened before he was deployed to coronavirus testing sites in Denver on March 14 and Telluride on March 17, the guard said. He did not wear personal protective equipment — meaning a mask, gloves and face shield — because he worked in a “support role” and was “not directly engaged in any test site activities,” a guard spokesperson said.
All soldiers are screened before they go on mission and are having their temperatures taken daily, the guard said. As soon as the soldier — a Douglas County man in his 30s — developed symptoms on March 18, he put on a mask and self-isolated. He was tested for the disease March 19, and the guard received the results Saturday.
Fifteen other soldiers who were in “casual contact” with the man are also in isolation and have been removed from the mission responding to the outbreak.
Gov. Jared Polis mobilized about 70 Colorado National Guard members to active duty to provide medical support and help with drive-up testing for the new coronavirus at several sites around Colorado, including in Denver, Chaffee County, Pueblo and Telluride. This soldier is the first member of the Colorado National Guard diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
He is not hospitalized. Instead, he “is being cared for while in isolation” at Fort Carson, away from living and work areas of soldiers, civilians and families at the Colorado Springs base.
The guard is planning to be in Montrose on Monday to help respond to the spread of the virus.
Guard spokeswoman Elena O’Bryan said the man was “on mission” but an initial news release Saturday about the positive test did not say how he was exposed. The “details regarding his exposure are under investigation” by the state health department, the release said.
Health officials have been worried about front-line responders to coronavirus becoming infected and how that will further strain a system that is expected to be overwhelmed in the coming days and weeks. Already there have been shortages of personal protective equipment in Colorado.
“Protecting the health of our force, families and our communities is our top priority,” the Adjutant General of Colorado U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Mike Loh said in an emailed statement. “We have taken every precaution, in coordination with our state and federal partners, to isolate our National Guard member to prevent the spread of this disease while ensuring he receives proper medical attention.”
Staff writer Jesse Paul contributed to this report.
Updated on Sunday, March 22, 2020, at 12:30 p.m.: This story was updated with new information from the Colorado National Guard about where the soldier was exposed to the new coronavirus and his work in responding to the pandemic.