Routt County extends lodging ban until May 31 to prevent spread of COVID-19
Commissioners decide against extending order limiting gatherings
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Routt County Board of Health during a meeting Wednesday unanimously decided to extend the county’s lodging ban through May 31.
The action comes as local leaders look for ways to contain the spread of COVID-19 and avoid a resurgence in cases while trying to return to a sense of normalcy.
Lodging companies, including hotels, motels, short-term rentals and campgrounds, will not be allowed to accept any new reservations until June 1 under the revised public health order. The ban, enacted in March, initially was scheduled to expire Friday, April 24.
As Routt County Commissioner Beth Melton explained, the lodging ban is one of the most effective tools the county wields to limit outside travel to the area, which has been a top concern in the fight against the pandemic.
“We know that travel is going to continue to be one of our biggest risks here as we try to contain this virus,” Melton said at the meeting.
With this in mind, the lodging ban likely will be the last restriction the Board of Health lifts locally as officials look to ease back on existing health orders.
Melton relayed a comment from the Steamboat Springs Lodging Association, which supports the extension of the ban.
“In the interest of public health, they are not interested in a premature reopening of lodging,” Melton said on behalf of the Lodging Association. “They would rather not contribute to us seeing a possible spike in cases over the summer.”
May typically is a slower month for lodging anyway, she said, and it is more problematic for those businesses to cancel reservations than to not book them in the first place.
The Board of Health also was considering an extension of its gathering ban, which restricts groups of more than five people unless they are part of the same household. It is scheduled to expire on Friday, April 24.
After discussing announcements from Gov. Jared Polis, who plans to transition the state from its stay-at-home order to a “safer-at-home” phase, the commissioners did not feel the need to extend its own, stricter gathering ban.
Colorado plans to allow some businesses, such as hair salons and retail shops, to reopen after the statewide stay-at-home order expires on Sunday, April 26. Guidelines will stay in place that require people to practice social distancing and to limit gatherings of more than 10 people.
“We don’t need to be issuing stricter guidelines than the state at this point,” Melton said.
Commissioner Tim Corrigan added that rolling back some local restrictions might assuage the concern of some residents that officials are exercising too much control over the population. While he is concerned that people will not be as vigilant about maintaining social distancing requirements as orders get lifted, Corrigan said the Routt County Board of Health could enact new guidelines in the future if officials do not find the state restrictions to be sufficient.
Preventing a resurgence of the virus will require that people continue to follow health tips and policies on their own volition, such as maintaining 6 feet of distance and wearing face masks in congested areas like grocery stores and on public transportation.
“Everyone needs to understand the level of personal responsibility people are going to have in order to prevent that from happening,” Melton emphasized.
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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Since Christmas, about 6% of all Routt County residents have tested positive for COVID-19. About a quarter of all cases locally since the start of the pandemic have come since Dec. 26.