Canceled, closed and quarantined: COVID-19 changes daily life |

Canceled, closed and quarantined: COVID-19 changes daily life

A screen above Steamboat Resort's box office states the ski area is closed due to COVID-19 concerns. The resort and multiple businesses closed on Sunday, March 15, in an attempt to prevent the spread of the virus.
Kari Dequine Harden

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — To say the COVID-19 pandemic and its ripple effects are disrupting normal routines would be an understatement.

For those who wake up on Sunday morning to go skiing, Steamboat Resort was closed. For those who wanted to worship, most churches were closed. For those who wanted to workout, the gym was likely closed.

According to a news release from the owner of Steamboat Resort, Alterra Mountain Co., “Starting the morning of Sunday, March 15, until further notice, all lift operations, food and beverage, retail and rental services will be closed until further notice.”

On Sunday morning, the base area was relatively quiet, aside from several small groups of sledders, skinners, hikers and snowshoers. Resort employees were on hand to answer questions about reservations and refunds.

“We’re disappointed,” said Steamboat Springs resident Tinker Tiffany, who was attaching skins to her skis near the gondola building Sunday morning. “We are all crying.”

Tiffany said she understands the decision, as hard as it is to stomach.

“From a selfish standpoint — No,” she said, she doesn’t agree with it. “But you can’t be selfish at a time like this.”

Tiffany said she thinks some of the response may be overblown.

But “it is what it is,” Tiffany said. “The thing I’m really worried about are the workers — they have car payments, rent and mortgages.”

Steamboat Resort officials did not provide additional information Sunday about what will happen to their employees. Will they get paid? Will the resort reopen?

From Babytime at Bud Werner Memorial Library to the final Ski Free Super Sunday at Howelsen Hill Ski Area, there aren’t very many events that haven’t been canceled.

Families are scrambling to figure out what they are going to do with their kids for the next two weeks after it was announced Friday that nearly all Routt County schools would be closed for two weeks.

College students are coming home, and many won’t be returning to their campuses for the foreseeable future, and businesses are bracing for what could look like mud season arriving about a month early.

As with any average March weekend, there were a lot of visitors in town. Many arrived before the resort announced it was going to close.

Dwayne Landon and his five grandkids are visiting from Nebraska. He said the family was very disappointed not to be skiing Sunday, but they weren’t angry. They understood. They were looking into tubing opportunities for the kids and debating whether they would cut their trip short.

At the Yampa Valley Regional Airport, Director Kevin Booth said no flights have been canceled at this time. The outgoing flights are busy, he said, while the incoming ones aren’t as full. The airport is following all the guidelines from local and federal agencies and taking additional steps like increased cleaning, Booth said. And they are making more space in the waiting areas.

Flattening the curve

For some, the closures and cancellations are an outrageous overreaction. For others, these drastic measures are warranted.

The recommendations coming from public health and epidemiological experts at the global, federal, state and local levels are all aimed at the same goals: increase testing, slow the spread and flatten the curve exponentially.

And their recommendations are the same: Wash your hands. Stay home if you are sick. Don’t touch your face. Minimize close contact with other people. Avoid big gatherings. Don’t travel to areas with outbreaks.

And there are other countries that can give us potential future scenarios.

“What happens is what’s happening now in Italy. The system is completely overrun, there is a massive shortage of critical care equipment, and doctors and nurses are forced to make impossible ethical choices, deciding who will get care and who will die,” wrote cardiologist Dr. David J. Goldberg in an opinion piece on Sunday in The Philadelphia Inquirer. “In this country, we are about two weeks behind the Italian timeline, and, based on the current rate of increase, we can expect cases of coronavirus to increase by a factor of 10 just about every 10 days.”

Experts say while we can’t stop the spread, we can still manage it, and most have moved away from comparisons to the flu. While influenza does kill between 12,000 and 60,000 people annually, and the symptoms overlap, COVID-19 is not the flu.

“The flu has a mortality of 0.1%. This has a mortality rate of 10 times that,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, on Wednesday during congressional testimony. “That’s the reason I want to emphasize we have to stay ahead of the game in preventing this.”

In addition, the experts are finding COVID-19 spreads more easily and quicker than the flu.

Some areas still bustling

While an empty Meadows Parking Lot on a bluebird Sunday in March is a staggering sight, it doesn’t mean everyone spent the day inside.

The Yampa River Core Trail had a consistent flow of traffic on a day warm enough that many were in shorts, and Lincoln Avenue was bustling with shoppers and diners.

Steamboat Snowmobile Tours reported an increase in volume of calls, and Ski Haus also was receiving a copious amount of calls inquiring about renting snowshoes, Nordic skis and other backcountry gear, said retail worker Julian Winston.

However, on Sunday morning, Ski Haus owners made the decision to close for a week beginning on Monday, Winston said. Saturday was very busy, he said, to the point it made him nervous given all the close interaction between people — and all the things being touched by many different hands, from hangers and money to skis and boots.

After the resort and other rental outlets announced they were closing, Winston said they knew Ski Haus would get even busier, concentrating more people in a small space.

“It would make us a hub,” he said.

In terms of the guidelines coming from public health agencies, that prospect “seemed to contradict everything we’re being told,” Winston added. The decision was made “for the health and safety of employees and customers.”

So, in terms of avoiding crowds, where does that leave restaurants? On one hand, people know they are facing difficult times and want to give favorite establishments and their employees support.

On Sunday, the majority of Steamboat’s favorite brunch spots were packed — with lines out the door and wait times of 30 minutes. Most bars were busy on Friday and Saturday nights.

One coffee shop was closed, citing a lack of supplies. Another coffee shop had signs on the door advising customers to wash their hands, and that hours were subject to change. Another kept the drive-through open while closing the store.

Unknowns remain

Still, in terms of keeping distances and not gathering in close quarters, it remains to be seen whether the bars and restaurants stay crowded.

It remains to be seen how long Steamboat Resort will be closed and how it will impact a winter economy that revolves around the ski area.

It remains to be seen who will take care of all the children who will be out of school for the next two weeks.

It remains to be seen when Routt County will have another confirmed COVID-19 case.

It remains to be seen whether additional restrictions will be placed on domestic travel.

And it remains to be seen whether or not any of these measures will work to slow the spread.

What people can do, if they so choose, is to follow the advice of the experts on how best to slow a pandemic. Primarily, wash your hands and practice social distancing, which is defined by the Centers for Disease Control as “remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet) from others when possible.”

And unlike other mountain area communities, no new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Routt County by the state on Saturday or Sunday.

COVID-19: Follow our coverage

Before immediately heading to the hospital, people who are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 have several resources, including:

  • The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is providing a phone line to answer questions from the public about COVID-19. Call CO-Help at 303-389-1687 or 877-462-2911 or email for answers in English and Spanish, Mandarin and more.
  • UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center offers Ask-A-Nurse, a 24/7 call line staffed by registered nurses who can assess symptoms and provide advice on seeking care. In Routt County, Ask-A-Nurse can be reached by calling 970-871-7878.
  • Virtual Visits can be done from the comfort of your home and only require a computer or tablet with a working webcam, speakers and microphone, or a smartphone.
  • If patients are experiencing severe symptoms or having difficulty breathing, they should visit the hospital’s emergency department.

Take precautions in everyday life:

  • Frequently and thoroughly wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash, or use your inner elbow or sleeve.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Stay home if you’re sick and keep your children home if they are sick.
  • Clean surfaces in your home and personal items such as cell phones, using regular household products.
  • Be calm but be prepared.
  • Employees at businesses and customers ​are required to wear a mask, according to a statewide public health order.
  • Limit distance between non-household members to 6 feet when indoors and outdoors.
  • The maximum group size for indoor activities is 10.

To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.

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