Panel of local officials provides more detail on state’s safer-at-home order
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — After Colorado Gov. Jared Polis’ safer-at-home public health order went into effect Monday, the three Routt County commissioners, joined by Steamboat Springs City Council President Jason Lacy, participated in a virtual town hall Tuesday to help explain what it means for local residents and businesses.
All of the elected officials noted the critical nature of the next few weeks. It is not a time to relax the added hygiene and social distancing measures still in place, they said, rather it is a time to heighten that vigilance.
“Those protocols become even more important,” said Commissioner Beth Melton as some restrictions are being loosened and more businesses allowed to resume operations.
It takes about two weeks to see an impact, she said. And if this phase of opening up correlates with an increase in positive COVID-19 cases, then things move backward.
As of Monday, the governor’s order allows retail businesses to operate curbside and delivery.
On Friday, May 1, those same retailers will be permitted to open with inside service, but with significant restrictions, including employee health screenings, frequent cleaning, personal protective equipment and 6-foot distancing, among other regulations.
In addition, personal service businesses will be allowed to open on May 1. Those include businesses like salons and barber shops.
Other components of COVID-19 business site mitigation include signage informing customers they cannot enter with a fever or cough, the provision of hand sanitizer or soap and water, an encouragement of contactless payment, limitation of travel by employees in and out of the county and special hours for high-risk people.
And the governor is still encouraging businesses to maximize the curbside options as much as possible, Melton noted.
On May 4, office buildings and businesses not in the critical category will be permitted to open with a maximum capacity of 50%.
“To the extent that people can work at home, they should continue to do so,” Melton said.
Under the governor’s order, restaurants and bars are not yet allowed to open beyond takeout and delivery. In terms of when they will be allowed to reopen for on-site drinking and dining, Lacy said that is still unclear.
“The governor did make comments that if things go well, then possibly it will be mid- to late-May that restaurants and bars could open,” Lacy said. “But he made clear that is far from a certainty.”
- I will maintain 6 feet of social/physical distance.
- I will wash my hands often.
- I will cover my face in public.
- I will stay home if I am at risk or when I am sick.
- I will self-report and call in immediately if I am sick.
The panel also discussed the economic impact dealt to Routt County so far.
Commissioner Tim Corrigan noted a strong economy going into the pandemic.
“But there’s no way to sugar coat it. It’s going to be tough for a long time for a lot of businesses,” he said.
Given the various government assistance programs in place, Melton noted that people who normally make less than an annual salary of $55,000 are currently making more in unemployment, if they are receiving it.
The panel also addressed mental health, and urged those struggling to reach out to friends, family and counseling resources, which have never been more accessible in terms of cost and virtual connection. There are also resources for small businesses. A comprehensive list of resources can be found at https://www.covid19routtcounty.com/local-resources.
“It’s not a failure to be struggling,” Lacy said. “It’s not a sign of weakness. We are all going through the same emotions.”
Corrigan urged people to be kind and “show some tolerance” toward others.
In addition to the governor’s new order, Routt County still has two public health orders in effect. The first is the ban on short-term lodging, which continues through the month of May. The second is an order requiring all businesses permitted to open to have a site mitigation plan in place. At this time, that order is in effect until May 27.
The public health order limiting gatherings to five people expired on April 24. The governor’s new order limits gathering to 10 people, so Routt County is aligned with the state on that.
Residents are required to follow whatever order is most restrictive. Commissioner Doug Monger noted the governor has a big task is conforming his order to 64 different counties, with unique economic bases.
In Routt County, the current orders that are more restrictive than the state include the ban on short-term lodging and the requirement — not recommendation — that all residents wear face coverings when in close interaction with other people.
“We are just trying to recover and move past this place,” he said. “The faster we get through this, the faster we can get done with it.”
When it comes to being outdoors, getting outside is a positive thing for physical and mental health, Monger said.
“Just do the right thing and be smart about it,” Monger said.
If you are rafting or kayaking, don’t congregate in large groups in one location, he advised. And don’t congregate at trailheads, he added.
There are five Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment criteria Routt County is currently meeting that go into the decision-making process for partial re-opening, Corrigan said.
First, disease prevalence is low and decreasing. Second, the health care system has the capacity to handle a surge. Third and fourth, the county has adequate testing capability to rapidly diagnose cases and adequate public health staffing.
And fifth, the residents are maintaining preventative measures, like social distancing.
“I’m worried that many citizens think that with this new safer-at-home order and many restrictions lifting, people can go back to their normal lifestyles,” Corrigan said. “That is not the case. If we are going to beat this thing, we really need to maintain a high degree of social distancing.”
As to whether Routt County has reached its peak of COVID-19 cases, Melton said it depends on what happens next.
“Right now, we are flattening the curve and seeing a decline in local cases. We have to keep that up,” Melton said. “The stay-at-home order made it easy to keep that flattening going, because no one was interacting with each other. Now opening things a little bit, there’s a much greater need for personal responsibility and to maintain social distancing and all the things that are going to keep people safe.”
To people who are saying the virus isn’t as bad as it was thought to be, Melton said there just isn’t any evidence at this time to come to that conclusion.
“It’s not as bad as we thought, because we took all these measures,” she said.
This new safer-at-home phase is more sustainable but also more tenuous.
“It’s important to recognize we have done a very good job up to this point as a community,” Lacy said. “We can see that reflected in the lower numbers we have had to this point. It’s important not to be lulled into complacency. People need to expect a slow phase-in.”
There could still be a spike in cases, Lacy noted, and the community still has limits in terms of testing and hospital capacity. Be mindful of that, and be patient, Lacy requested.
More details about the safer-at-home order can be found at https://covid19.colorado.gov/safer-at-home.
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 email@example.com 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 kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone — regardless of vaccination status — wear a mask in indoor, public spaces in Routt County.