Local officials urge compliance after state bans gatherings of more than 10 people
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Starting Thursday, Colorado is enforcing a ban that limits public gatherings of more than 10 people, with several exceptions, as one of the latest ways to limit the spread of a novel coronavirus.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced the ban, which went into effect at 12 a.m. Thursday, March 19, and lasts 30 days. It defines a public gathering as “a planned or spontaneous event with a large number of people in attendance that could strain the planning and response resources of the community hosting the event.”
The ban applies to things like leisure, faith-based and sporting events, or any activity that brings together 10 or more people in a single room or space at the same time.
Exceptions include “normal operations” at airports, bus stations, health care facilities, grocery or retails stores, pharmacies or other spaces where people may be in transit for essential goods and services, according to the ban. Restaurants may continue to offer delivery and take-out food services.
Offices, factories, state courts and government buildings may also have more than 10 people present, but people must maintain the recommended 6 feet of distance from one another, the ban states.
The announcement comes days after Colorado Gob. Jared Polis issued an order that temporarily shut down all in-restaurant dining, bars, theaters, gyms and casinos in the state.
Communities across the globe have enacted similar gathering bans as a way to reduce the spread of COVID-19, a respiratory illness that is transmitted through person-to-person contact or by contact with surfaces contaminated with the virus. It is especially deadly to people 60 and older and those with underlying health conditions.
On Thursday, public health officials announced the third fatality in Colorado resulting from COVID-19, a man in his 60s from El Paso County who fell sick after he came into contact with another person who died from the virus.
Routt County Public Health Director Kari Ladrow emphasized the importance of minimizing social contact and gatherings amid the global pandemic.
“Each of us in our community has a role to play to protect ourselves, our community and the vulnerable,” Ladrow said. “We need to be consistent with our actions, so that we can have a collective impact on the spread of COVID-19.”
Violation of the gathering ban could result in a fine of up to $1,000 or up to one year in county jail, according to the Department of Public Health and Environment.
Undersheriff Doug Scherar with the Routt County Sheriff’s Office said his agency has not yet discussed enforcement of the ban. He said any law enforcement action likely would come in the form of a court summons. A judge would then determine the punishment.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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