Social media outcry prompts Routt County citizens to volunteer during coronavirus crisis as county ramps up its own effort |

Social media outcry prompts Routt County citizens to volunteer during coronavirus crisis as county ramps up its own effort

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Several volunteer groups have formed to help out Routt County residents who might be stuck in their homes due to the COVID-19 outbreak. After pleas from people on social media sites, long-time Red Cross volunteer Sarah Cherry decided to form the Routt Responds group on Facebook.

“Our community is so small, but people are willing to help,” said Cherry, a cancer survivor who was immunocompromised herself at one time.

She said families with sick or elderly members are especially vulnerable.

“Someone may need prescriptions picked up, a dog walked or need snow shoveled,” Cherry said. “We’re trying to have a network of healthy people that can help.”

Cherry is uniquely qualified for such work. She volunteered in disaster response for the Red Cross, managing shelters, staffing and working with preparedness efforts. She volunteered during hurricanes Katrina and Ike among other disasters.

“There are people who don’t know who to ask for help,” Cherry said.

She created an email for those who want to keep their requests private — either people needing help or volunteers who don’t want to go on social media. Just email or post on the Routt Responds page.

Cherry understands the coronavirus is a “revolving situation with revolving risks,” and she’s in contact with government officials and nonprofit agencies who also want to help the community.

“Sometimes, community groups can fill those gaps that government agencies can’t,” Cherry said.

Local resident Ken Mauldin was especially moved to help the elderly who are seen as more vulnerable to the coronavirus.

“I created Routt County Helpers, a private group (on Facebook),” explained Mauldin.

He said 40 volunteers have signed up from all over the county and are willing to go grocery shopping for older folks who can’t afford to be exposed to the virus.

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.

“So far, my experience has been that the smaller communities of neighborhoods are taking care of themselves right now. … We’re hoping for the best but planning for the worst,” he said.

Mauldin’s Facebook site, Routt County Helpers, is private so that people who need help can request to post on the site, but it won’t be public. Volunteers are also allowed on the private Facebook page. Those without social media can also email to request help or to volunteer.

Mauldin said his idea was to set up a “communications network,” connecting people who need help with volunteers willing to help.

“It’s such a dynamic situation, who knows where we’ll all be tomorrow,” he added.

Yampa’s Mayor Aaron Symons also is hosting a live Facebook event Monday night to uncover who exactly needs help in the South Routt area, and he will then line up volunteers to meet those needs.

“For example, we want to be able to have one person who’ll say ‘I’ll take care of these four people and check on them every week,’” said Mayor Symon’s wife, Sheila Symons. “We just want these amazing seniors, who have made this county what it is, to be here this summer.”

To tune into the live Facebook event, go to South Routt Community Event/Activities page at 7 p.m. Monday, March 16, or call Sheila Symons at 817-707-2675.

How to help

If you need assistance or want to volunteer, contact any of the following groups.

Routt Responds: or Routt Responds on Facebook

Routt County Helpers: or Routt County Helpers on Facebook

Routt County Community Emergency Response Team:

South Routt Community Event/Activities Facebook live event: 7 p.m. Monday, March 16, hosted by Yampa Mayor Aaron Symons or call 817-707-2675.

North Routt Rumors Facebook page

In the meantime, Routt County Emergency Management is calling on its volunteer Community Emergency Response Team. The local COVID-19 response effort is being led by Paula Gregory.

“It’s a nationwide FEMA program to develop and train local volunteers to help out their neighbors during emergencies,” Gregory said.

Gregory said if groups like Routt Responds and Routt County Helpers can assist with any immediate needs, “that’s good.”

“We don’t want to stop neighbors helping neighbors,” she added.

She’s also reaching out to the same groups and others as she coordinates guidelines for volunteers who want to help community members. For example, she said a guideline might include dropping off groceries on the doorstep for a person suspected of being infected.

In the meantime, Gregory hopes to get volunteers to help with information lines the county hopes to set up soon. Gregory and her volunteers are keeping in contact with government officials and monitoring the community’s needs and responses, so they’ll know the best way to proceed in their volunteer efforts.

“If anyone has time and skills to donate, let us know,” she said.

Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.

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