Testing blunders crippled US response as coronavirus spread

FILE - In this Wednesday, March 11, 2020 file photo, a technician prepares COVID-19 coronavirus patient samples for testing at a laboratory in New York's Long Island. Wide scale testing is a critical part of tracking and containing infectious diseases. But the U.S. effort has been plagued by a series of missteps, including accuracy problems with the test kits the CDC sent to other labs and bureaucratic hurdles that slowed the entrance of large, private sector labs.

An El Paso County prosecutor tested positive Tuesday for COVID-19, becoming at least the second attorney in Colorado Springs to contract the fast-spreading disease.

The prosecutor, who wasn’t identified, was last in court and at the downtown building housing the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office on March 17, office spokeswoman Lee Richards said. She didn’t specify where in the El Paso County Combined Courts, 270 S. Tejon St., the prosecutor last worked.

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“We are following all public health guidelines,” Richards said. County workers have “thoroughly cleaned” the attorney’s office and the rest of their floor at the 105 E. Vermijo St. office, she added.

Richards said she didn’t have information about the prosecutor’s condition.

Most of the DA’s staff is working remotely, except when they must appear in court, Richards said.

Colorado Springs public defender tests positive for COVID-19

“Anyone exposed has already passed the 14-day guideline,” she said, referring to the period when symptoms are expected to develop after being exposed to the novel coronavirus.

An attorney with the Colorado State Public Defender’s Office in Colorado Springs tested positive for COVID-19 on March 23. That attorney has since “completely recovered,” said Rose Roy, who supervises the local public defender’s office. No other employees have fallen ill with the virus. 

The public defender's office's downtown headquarters, 30 E. Pikes Peak Ave., remains temporarily closed and all attorneys are appearing in court by phone.

"We have taken every possible step to limit direct contact with our clients, who are exponentially more vulnerable than we are," Roy said. 

She added that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has “not notified any of our employees that they have had personal contact with” the prosecutor who tested positive.

El Paso County courts closed to public except for 'matters of immediate concern'

Fourth Judicial District Administrator Scott Sosebee, the county’s top court administrator, said his office was notified Tuesday that a prosecutor tested positive for COVID-19, but that “no personal identifying information (was) shared” beyond where and when the employee was last in the courthouse. Those areas are “sanitized” by county employees, he said.

The El Paso County courthouse has postponed most trials, shaved dockets and reduced hours to help stem the virus' spread. 

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