| SteamboatToday.com

Video Gallery: COVID-19 local panels

The Pilot & Today in conjunction with the city of Steamboat Springs has held several live panel discussions with local experts and community leaders about COVID-19 and its impacts.

Routt County officials and medical professionals discuss the ongoing coronavirus pandemic from a local perspective.

Steamboat Pilot & Today Local Coronavirus Panel

LIVE: Routt County officials and medical professionals discuss the ongoing coronavirus pandemic from a local perspective.The panel includes Dr. Laura Sehnert with UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center, Routt County Public Health Medical Director Dr. Brian Harrington, Interim Steamboat Springs Fire Chief Chuck Cerasoli and Routt County Public Health Director Kari Ladrow. The moderator is Lisa Schlichtman, Steamboat Pilot & Today editor.

Posted by Steamboat Pilot & Today on Friday, March 20, 2020

Steamboat and Routt County officials address questions about business resources following the outbreak of COVID-19.

COVID-19 Business Panel

LIVE: Steamboat and Routt County officials address questions about business resources following the outbreak of COVID-19.The panel includes Kara Stoller, CEO of the Steamboat Springs Chamber; Jessica Valand, Colorado Workforce Center; Whitney Bakarich, Mind Springs Health and Jennifer Dorr, Routt County Human Services.The moderator is Lisa Schlichtman, Steamboat Pilot & Today editor.

Posted by Steamboat Pilot & Today on Monday, March 23, 2020

Steamboat and Routt County officials address questions about the county’s two public health orders.

COVID-19 Public Health Orders Panel

LIVE: Steamboat and Routt County officials address questions about the county's two public health orders issued Tuesday.The panel includes Jason Lacy, president of the Steamboat Springs City Council; Beth Melton, Routt County commissioner; and Steamboat Police Chief Cory Christensen. The moderator is Lisa Schlichtman, Steamboat Pilot & Today editor.

Posted by Steamboat Pilot & Today on Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Steamboat Springs and Routt County officials address questions about local COVID-19 testing efforts and the statewide stay-at-home order.

COVID-19 Panel: Testing and stay-at-home order

LIVE: Steamboat Springs and Routt County officials address questions about local COVID-19 testing efforts and the statewide stay-at-home order.The panel includes Routt County Commissioner Beth Melton, Steamboat Springs City Council President Jason Lacy and Routt County Public Health Officer Dr. Brian Harrington. The moderator is Lisa Schlichtman, Steamboat Pilot & Today editor.

Posted by Steamboat Pilot & Today on Friday, March 27, 2020

Local financial experts address people’s questions about the new government stimulus and finances following the outbreak of novel coronavirus.

LIVE: Local financial experts address people’s questions about the new government stimulus and finances following the outbreak of novel coronavirus.The panel includes PJ Wharton, president of Yampa Valley Bank; Steve Zarlengo, financial advisor with Edward Jones; and Jim Nowak, CPA with Western Slope Accounting Group. The moderator is Lisa Schlichtman, Steamboat Pilot & Today editor.

Posted by Steamboat Pilot & Today on Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Letter: COVID-19 crisis should make us rethink our current health insurance approach

When an emergency shows up that puts individuals and communities between the proverbial rock and a hard place, our community seems to come closer together (not physically in this case). We now all feel the same predicaments though many citizens feel it more than others based on their economic and social status.

In terms of health insurance and a medical safety net, this crisis seems to put many workers and employees in harm’s way.

  1. They lose their health insurance because it is tied to their job.

2. Having no job makes it difficult to pay for their health insurance.

3. Those on leave can’t afford to pay for their portion of their health insurance.

4. Employers who go bankrupt leave employees without health insurance or pensions.

5. Unions can be dismantled easily in this time, losing health insurance benefits.

And on the other side, small to medium businesses are endangered as well.

  1. They can’t pay for their portion of health insurance for their present employees.

2. They do not have the resources to continue health insurance for their employees on leave.

3. They may have a difficult time finding a health insurance plan they can afford.

4. They may not be able to offer health insurance to their new employees.

I wonder what would have happened if we had a national health insurance plan in place for all Americans, not tied to their jobs? The response to the coronavirus could have been more organized. It could have been prepared much earlier. There could have been a unified national approach. It could have used the preventive approach for positive health outcomes. It could have prevented this crisis from being an economic and political football.

A national health insurance plan for all sounds a lot like “Medicare for All.” Sometimes, the positive result of a crisis such as this one may force us to rethink our present health insurance approach. National health insurance may now seem more acceptable because of this pandemic.  

Many reluctant employees with employer health insurance may now better understand the advantages of a national health care plan. One that is always there for you in times of crisis. Maybe this is one of the potential “silver linings” that Lisa Schlichtman mentioned in her “From the Editor” column.

John Spezia
Steamboat Springs

Letter: Thank you fabulous library staff

I am so very impressed with the work that Bud Werner Memorial Lbrary staff is doing to keep the community informed, entertained and connected during this difficult time; virtual book clubs, story hours for children and increased availability of ebooks and audiobooks. They have created “virtual socializing” from our “social distancing.” Kudos to Chris Painter and Jennie Lay and the rest of this fabulous staff.

Jan Dring
Steamboat Springs

Letter: Routt Countians should wear DIY masks in public places

From now on, I will be wearing a DIY mask when I go to a public place, such as a grocery store, post office or to ride the bus. I encourage others to do so as well. Let me tell you why.

I began as a mask skeptic. But the science and empirical evidence is overwhelming. As recent articles in the New York Times and Science Magazine show, many U.S. health experts are starting to embrace the idea of widespread public masks use to reduce public contagion.

It’s important to note that masks aren’t just about the wearer. It’s also about others. the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend wearing of masks by all infected persons. But public health experts also point out that a large portion of COVID-19 cases are asymptomatic, allowing the disease to be passed along by these inadvertent carriers.

This is why near-universal usage of masks is a key attribute to all successful countries. There are no exceptions. In South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan, there is no lockdown, but COVID-19 is being controlled. Ubiquitous mask wearing is one key reason why. The Czech Republic went from no mask usage to nearly 100% usage in 10 days after masks were mandated. This has been an important factor for their lower contagion rate than other European countries.

Why do masks help? A key transmission method of COVID-19 is by talking, coughing and sneezing. This creates moisture droplets, much larger than the virus itself, that infect others. A Cambridge study found that household cotton fabric can be effective in blocking particles as small as 0.02 microns. This allows the public to use homemade masks to slow the contagion rate, while reserving the critical supply of N95 masks for health care workers. They rightfully have priority for those masks.

Wearing masks is not a substitute for reducing exposure, social distancing and proper hygiene. It’s an additional weapon against the virus. We are inflicting incredible economic pain to deal with this virus. The cost of a mask is minuscule in comparison but delivers huge returns. We can’t afford to miss this opportunity.

Wearing a mask is not a sign of fear; it is a sign of caring and social responsibility. The Czech slogan is “your mask protects me, my mask protects you.” 

With masks, we will save lives — Routt County lives.

Let’s do this, Routt County. Let’s all wear masks in public places.

Larry Desjardin
Steamboat Springs

A ‘seismic shift’ moves medicine online during COVID-19 crisis through telehealth technology

Dr. David Cionni, emergency medicine physician at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs, demonstrates the telestroke equipment. Telehealth medicine is now being used to keep more people at home while still providing medical care.
Courtesy photo

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Never before has so much medicine been practiced over a computer screen or a phone call.

From pediatrics to emergency medicine, doctors and nurses around Routt County are fielding a higher than average number of calls and, in most cases, a lower than average number of in-person visits.

Some health care providers have sophisticated telehealth systems, which involve a secure screen-to-screen conversation with features that put patient information directly onto virtual charts.

There are also a lot of less formal visual options being utilized, like Facetime or Zoom. And of course, a lot can be done simply over the good old-fashioned telephone.

All strategies fall under the category of telehealth, which is defined as “the provision of health care remotely by means of telecommunications technology.”

But while people are being advised to remain home if they are not suffering a medical emergency, the doctors, nurses and medical assistants on the other end of the line must strike a careful balance between keeping people at home who genuinely don’t need immediate medical intervention and identifying when people must get medical care.

Keeping people home keeps them safe from potentially becoming exposed to COVID-19 at the doctor’s office or hospital, and it keeps the staff and patients who have to be at the hospital from potentially being exposed. As more health care workers fall sick and even die, the need to protect the frontline is increasingly critical.

Being scared right now when any kind of new symptoms are present is understandable, said Steamboat Emergency Center doctor Matthew Freeman.

It also should be reassuring that 80% of people who get COVID-19 recover without any medical intervention, he noted.

“It’s still an appropriate response to be fearful, but within reason — fear without panic,” Freeman said.

Freeman said a big part of his role right now is to provide education and reassurance.

“If I can do that over the phone — right now — that’s the best way I can do it,” he said.

He and his colleagues are helping people understand whether their symptoms are mild or severe and what might trigger the need to come in.

“There is still a great deal we do not know about this infection,” Freeman said about COVID-19 concerns.

And the fact that so many COVID-19 symptoms mimic influenza makes it even more challenging.

“We find ourselves in a very unique dilemma in that we don’t have the capacity to test,” he said. “We have to assume people are positive. We have to assume it is present without the ability to test.”

Freeman said Steamboat Emergency Center is continuing to build and improve its telehealth capabilities and has seen a significant increase in phone calls in recent weeks.

At South Routt Medical Center in Oak Creek, District Manager Ken Rogers said his staff started talking about expanding telehealth capabilities about three weeks ago. Before that, there just wasn’t much of a demand, he said.

“People like coming in,” he added.

In addition, there are many areas of South Routt with limited internet and cell phone access.

After choosing a system and getting everything hooked up last week, the South Routt center launched its telehealth platform Monday.

And they use the phone — a lot. They are discouraging walk-ins at this time and encouraging everyone to call first. Before anyone comes in, they first go through a phone screening with basic questions. Then, if they do come in, they must put on a mask and get their temperature checked — and that goes for the entire staff as well.

The center is also accepting all patients regardless of ability to pay.

“We know people will be going through financial hardships in the weeks and months to come, and we don’t want anyone’s health care to be compromised,” Rogers said.

Dr. Chris Davis is the medical director for virtual health at UCHealth. Davis said the UCHealth system, which includes the Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs, has been building telehealth capabilities for years.

Today, it is proving an effective way to deliver and receive care through social distancing, according to Davis.

In the past three weeks, UCHealth’s virtual urgent care has increased 1,000%.

It’s been a “seismic shift in health care,” David said.

In early March, UCHealth was handling about 20 virtual visits a day across the entire system, which serves about four million patients. Now, there are more than 200 virtual visits daily. They’ve trained about 100 additional providers to work in the virtual realm, Davis said.

They are also “crowdsourcing,” Davis said, recruiting doctors and other medical professionals who aren’t as busy because of the reduction of things like elective surgeries. People are volunteering, he said, and eager to help.

“This pandemic accelerated (our telehealth infrastructure) exponentially,” Davis said. “We made three years of progress in three weeks.”

Every one of UCHealth’s 700 clinics turned on their telehealth capabilities in a span of three days, he said.

There is a lot that can’t be done over a screen, Davis acknowledged, but there is still a lot that can be done.

“So much of health care decisions are based around patient discussions,” Davis said.

In about 10 seconds, providers can make a determination of how sick a patient is, Davis said. They can see if a patient is having difficulty breathing, see the color of their skin, assess posture and look into their eyes.

They can get a good sense of whether that patient should immediately go to a hospital, he said. Or, with everyone on high alert, concerned patients can get to the right place at the right time. That’s what flattening the curve is all about, he said — identifying what needs to be seen immediately and what can wait.

At Pediatrics of Steamboat, Dr. Dana Fitzgerald said their call volume has doubled — even tripled — on some days. More than ever, people aren’t sure if they should come in. Fitzgerald is advising anyone with children with mild cold or flu symptoms to keep them at home and, of course, call with any questions. It’s also been a relatively heavy year for influenza, she said, and cases are still going around.

“If the child is healthy otherwise and it seems like a regular cold, we recommend you stay home,” she said.

With kids, what they can’t do with their telehealth system is check vital signs, listen to the lungs and check ears. They can renew prescriptions for kids with depression and anxiety and check out things like rashes.

If kids are breathing really fast, have a bad cough that is getting worse or a high fever for more than three days, they should come in, Fitzgerald said. It is important to check oxygen levels and make sure kids aren’t in any respiratory distress.

“We really encourage parents to call if you aren’t sure,” she said.

At this time, Fitzgerald’s office is scheduling wellness checks in the mornings and sick visits in the afternoon.

Yampa Valley Medical Associates joined the EPIC electronic medical record system last year, which has been “huge” for their telehealth system, said Dr. Jennifer Kempers. Her practice went live with telehealth in October.

Kempers admits she was a little skeptical. She prefers in-person medicine, and the demand wasn’t really there. Telehealth got off to a slow start, she said, until about two weeks ago.

Now, it’s playing a crucial role. And patients — some who were also skeptical — are figuring it out and embracing it, she said.

And, as with everyone else, doctors are fully aware of the limits. They can’t check vital signs, but they can do a lot. They can ask patients to push on certain places and see what hurts. Doctors can see distress, anxiety and evaluate breathing.

Kempers’ practice is also doing a lot over the phone and talking people through their symptoms and fears.

And her primary message is, “Don’t drop in — but call us. We are here for you. We are here for you every step of the way.”

Bottom line, if it is an emergency, call 9-1-1. If it isn’t, call your primary health care provider. They know what to do.

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

Suspicious people wearing masks: The Record for Sunday, March 29, 2020

Sunday, March 29, 2020

9:58 a.m. Steamboat Springs Police Department officers responded to a call about a group of people hanging out in the Meadows Parking Lot. They were all family members and not in violation of the public health order.

10:23 a.m. Police responded to a report about public health concerns about the amount of people at the Stables Trailhead. Everyone was practicing social distancing.

11:19 a.m. Officers responded to a report of a public health concern regarding kids playing at a park in the 1300 block of Lincoln Avenue. The kids were gone when police arrived.

11:22 a.m. Officers responded to a report of suspicious people wearing masks in a truck at a gas station in the 500 block of Marketplace Plaza. The people were wearing medical masks.

Crime Stoppers

If you have information about any unsolved crime, contact Routt County Crime Stoppers. You will remain anonymous and could earn a cash reward.

Submit a tip
• Call: 970-870-6226
• Click: TipSubmit.com
• Text: Send “NAMB” and your message to 274637

11:35 a.m. Police responded to a report about an armed man. The man had an air rifle strapped to his backpack.

1:30 p.m. Officers responded to a report about people skiing near the Christie Peak Express lift, an area that is currently closed. The people were gone when officers arrived.

1:54 p.m. Police responded to a report about people skiing near the 1900 block of Ski Time Square Drive. The area is closed for skiing, and the people were issued a warning for trespassing.

11:28 p.m. Officers responded to a public health concern in the 3100 block of Chinook Lane. There was an argument between two roommates. One wanted to invite people over, which would have been a violation of the public health order.

11:55 p.m. Police responded to a report of a bear getting into a trash can in the 1300 block of Dream Island Plaza.

Total incidents: 36

  • Steamboat officers had 26 cases that included calls for service and officer-initiated incidents such as traffic stops.
  • Routt County Sheriff’s Office deputies had seven cases that included calls for service and officer-initiated incidents such as traffic stops.
  • North Routt Fire Protection District firefighters responded to two call for service.
  • West Routt Protection District firefighters responded to one call for service.

The Record offers a glimpse of police activity and is not a comprehensive report of all police activity. Calls such as domestic violence, sexual assaults and juvenile situations typically do not appear in The Record.

Routt county officials offer guidelines to area contractors about COVID-19 site management

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — On Sunday afternoon, in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, the Routt County Building Department and Routt County Board of Commissioners issued a new set of guidelines aimed at protecting workers on construction sites and the community as a whole.

“Our objectives are basically, number one, to limit the number of construction workers traveling in and out of the community,” Routt County Commissioner Tim Corrigan said. “Then, number two, we also wanted to limit the amount of travel even among the construction workers that live within our community and are working on projects.

“I think the short story from my perspective is we gave guidance, but we are in fact depending upon the common sense of our contracting community to self regulate themselves,” Corrigan added.

Corrigan and Routt County Building Official Todd Carr spoke about the guidelines sent out Sunday during a Monday commissioners meeting, explaining that area contractors would be required to file a COVID-19 site management plan that would be enforceable.

The management plan is a requirement and falls under the building department’s jurisdiction as a mandatory policy that must be followed by contractors working in Routt County. Building department officials would have the authority to inactivate a permit and order that work be stopped on a project if a proper site management plan is not filed and properly posted on site.

Contractors learned about the required site management plan in Sunday’s letter, which also contained other guidelines.

“We’ve been taking this very seriously from the very first notices,” said lcoal contractor Eric Rabesa, president and founder of Rivertree Custom Builders. “We completely understand the implications of this, community wide, for anybody who continues to work.”

The guidelines ask contractors to put nonessential construction on hold and request that contractors limit the number of workers coming into the area from outside the county and the state. If workers must come into Routt County, it is recommended they stay in local lodging for the long term rather than going back and forth to home on weekends.

The letter also includes a long list of common-sense recommendations that include: practicing social distancing; limiting the number of workers to five inside a building at one time; using gloves and goggles; not shaking hands; and asking that employees leave the construction site immediately if they develop any COVID-19 symptoms.

“Last week, we adapted to each and every notice they came out with,” Rabesa said. “We had statewide, countywide, national standards … and as a small company, we were able to adapt quickly. I kind of saw the writing on the wall that if we didn’t act quickly, it could get worse, and it could show that the construction community is not taking this seriously, and we would get shut down even faster.”

Like many others, he was confused about what was essential construction and what wasn’t. And it’s a question that commissioners also are grappling with.

“It’s a tricky question,” Commissioner Beth Melton said when asked about which construction projects would be classified as essential. “I think we would probably include a school, but we would also include low-income housing developments in that category. I think anything that is important to public health or critical infrastructure.”

But what about primary residences and second homes under construction?

“This is where the gray area is,” Melton said. “In my opinion, if it’s something like a second home that isn’t going to function as someone’s primary residence, then it’s probably less essential than something where someone is waiting to move into that house.”

Corrigan said it was difficult to define essential, but if the guidelines released by the county on Sunday are not followed, he believes commissioners may be forced to make the decision.

“I agree with your characterization of how difficult it would be to draw that line,” Corrigan said. “I would add that if we see people really ignoring our guidance. … I know that I’m ready to revisit this, and if necessary, make those judgments about what is essential and what is not essential and issue whatever orders are necessary to protect the public.”

On Monday, Rabesa revisited the COVID-19 site management plan for his company, which has just four employees and is currently working on three projects. He plans to keep working on two of those sites because he doesn’t need to bring in subcontractors and can limit the number of employees on each site.

He said both the city and county have done a great job providing information and guidance to businesses under these conditions. He said his company is doing whatever is needed to work under the guidelines and prevent the spread of the virus.

“We understand that we could potentially spread the virus if we do not work responsibly, and that’s why we are severely limiting the number of people on-site, and everything like that, in order to try to proceed if we can, under the right conditions,” Rabesa said.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.

Former Steamboat school board member to run for state board of education

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A former member of the Steamboat Springs School Board has announced her candidacy for the Colorado Board of Education.

Mayling Simpson will be on the November election ballot to represent Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District. The district includes much of Western Colorado, Steamboat Springs, Grand Junction, Durango and Pueblo.

Simpson, a Democrat, will run against Republican incumbent Joyce Rankin of Carbondale. Rankin has held the seat since being appointed in August 2015.

“There are many issues that I am passionate about, prompting me to run,” Simpson said.

Simpson said she will address inadequate funding for Colorado’s public schools and teacher salaries as a priority.

“Sixty-one percent of school districts have gone to a four-day school week largely to save money,” she said. “And most of our teachers do not receive a living wage.”

Simpson also said it is possible to raise the state’s high school graduation rate from 85% to 100% through more vocational training and alternative high schools.

“Last and most importantly, I will fight against any move to send taxpayer money to private schools,” she said.

According to Simpson, the voucher system is a major threat to the success of Colorado schools because it pulls funds away from public school districts.

“This is the opposite of what public schools have always stood for,” she said.

She also supports public charter schools, school-based health centers and increased funding for mental health and behavioral services for students.

A full-time Steamboat resident since 2010, Simpson holds a doctorate degree in anthropology from the University of North Carolina. She formerly taught both at the high school and college levels, served as an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and was senior environmental health advisor at the World Health Organization.

Simpson served on the Steamboat Springs School Board for one year, running unopposed in the 2017 election. She resigned from the board in 2018.

To reach Bryce Martin, call 970-871-4206 or email bmartin@SteamboatPilot.com.

Federal CARES Act aimed at bringing relief as unemployment applications continue to rise

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — On Friday, the $2 trillion federal CARES Act was passed by the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives and then signed into law by President Donald Trump, bringing much-needed relief to those who have lost their jobs and income as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“The Senate bill backdates these provisions to Jan. 27, so anybody who has been laid off and filed a claim since Jan. 27 will be included,” said Jessica Valand, who serves as regional director for workforce development in Northwest Colorado. “It means that people who are filing now or filed inside of the last couple of weeks will still be able to benefit from the provisions, which are pretty extensive.”

One of the main benefits of the bill is a provision called pandemic unemployment assistance that makes people who were not eligible for unemployment before the CARES Act was signed eligible.

Valand said contract workers, gig-economy workers, like Uber drivers, and people who are self-employed are now eligible for unemployment. It would also include people who are unable to work because they have to stay home with a child because the schools are closed during this pandemic.

“So, there’s some really sweeping eligibility changes, which are good,” Valand said. “They’re casting a really wide net to try and make sure that pretty much everybody who’s not working right now can benefit from unemployment insurance.”

The other big change is that the CARES Act will dramatically increase the assistance amount as well as extend the period that individuals receive unemployment from 26 to 39 weeks.

“The way unemployment insurance works right now, you get 55% of your gross lost weekly wages up to about $618 where it caps out,” Valand said. “In this new legislation, they’re going to pay an additional $600 to everyone who’s receiving unemployment insurance on top of their weekly benefit amount. That’s a really dramatic increase in terms of the total dollars that folks are going to receive through unemployment insurance.”

Though the CARES Act was signed by the president Friday, Cher Haavind, deputy executive director of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, was asking those unemployed workers who are newly eligible to wait a few days before applying.

What to know
  • Apply for unemployment benefits at colorado.gov/pacific/cdle/unemployment.
  • Any employee who has earned $2,500 from an employer in the past months is eligible to apply.
  • Contractors, gig workers and self-employed people are now eligible for unemployment benefits.
  • Individuals can now receive benefits for 39 months, and the assistance amount has been increased by $600.
  • Employees who have had their hours reduced to 32 hours a week should apply for unemployment benefits.
  • Call the Colorado Workforce Center at 970-879-3075 with questions. Leave a message, and staff will call back.

“We hope to receive federal guidance quickly and are already working on reprogramming the systems and creating some charts so that workers know, based on their situation, what they might be eligible to receive,” Haavind said.

That is good news to many Coloradans who have found themselves without work since the COVID-19 outbreak resulted in the closure of many businesses over the past two weeks.

“The system is experiencing more ability and expanded capacity to take in consistently around 15,000 to 20,000 claims a day,” Haavind said.

That’s an increase over last week when the closure of restaurants, bars and movie theaters resulted in nearly 25,000 unemployment applications being filed, following a statewide stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Jared Polis. Last week’s spike overwhelmed the online system resulting in frustration, long wait times and applications failing to go through.

Haavind said the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment continues to see improved performance in its an online application process. The department implemented a new last name online filing system where claimants with last names that begin with the letter A through M file claims on Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays or after noon on Saturdays. Those with last names beginning with N through Z may file their claims on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and before noon on Saturdays.

Officials also are hoping rule changes, including waiving the work search requirement and the one-week waiting period, will expedite processing and cut the time unemployed workers have to wait for the first benefit payment from four to six weeks to 10 to 14 days.

“It’s hard to make predictions right now,” said Ryan Gedney, senior economist at the state department of labor and employment. “I think it’s really dependent on how quickly the virus can be contained. I would say we’re just seeing the beginning of this … to try and identify when we might see this start to tail out is extremely difficult at this point.”

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.

Monday Medical: Simple exercises to stay fit at home

Being at home more doesn’t mean you can’t stay active.

“There are lots of different exercises people can do at home with no equipment,” said Missy Amato, a physical therapist at UCHealth SportsMed Clinics in Steamboat Springs. “It’s important to stay active as it provides a sense of well-being, a sense of control and just helps you feel a little bit happier.”

Amato outlines her top at-home exercises below. Be aware of your own limitations: some of these exercises may not be appropriate for people who are elderly or have other health issues.

Lower Body

Sit to stand: Sit in a chair with feet shoulder-width apart. Lean your nose over your toes and move to standing. Then return to a seated position, moving slowly and with great control.

“For a greater strength and balance challenge, perform the sit-to-stand motion on one leg at a time, or hold weights in your hands,” Amato said. “If you don’t have weights, you can make your own with gallon or half-gallon jugs. A gallon jug weighs eight pounds, and a half-gallon jug weighs four.”

Be sure not to let your knees collapse inward during the exercise.

Bridges: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Tighten your abdominals by pulling your belly button in towards your spine, and slowly lift your hips off the floor into a bridge position. Keep your back straight as you move. For a greater challenge, do a single-leg bridge with just one foot pushing on the floor. Make sure to keep your pelvis level as your raise and lower your hips.

Single leg balance: Stand next to a counter or wall for support as needed and balance on one leg.

“You can increase the challenge by closing your eyes, standing on an unstable surface, such as a throw pillow, or bouncing and catching a ball,” Amato said.

Upper Body

Bicep curls: Hold a dumbbell or another weight in each hand, with your palms facing forward. Curl both dumbbells up towards your shoulders, then lower them back down. Repeat.

Tricep extensions: Hold a dumbbell or weight in one hand, then raise your arm straight upward, bending your elbow by your head, and stabilizing with your other hand. Slowly straighten your arm toward the ceiling, then lower it back down and repeat.

Bent over row: Kneel over a chair with one foot on the ground, holding a dumbbell in your hand. Pull your hand up and back, bending your elbow by your side, then lower your arm back down. Repeat.


Toe taps: Lie on your back with your knees bent. Lift your legs off the ground to form a 90-degree angle, also known as tabletop position.

“Engage your abdominals and slowly lower one leg, touching your toes to the floor,” Amato said. “Then return to tabletop.”

Repeat with the opposite leg.

Planks: Begin lying on your stomach, propped up on your elbows. Engage your abdominal muscles and lift your hips and legs into a plank position, keeping your elbows directly under your shoulders.

“Keep your shoulders and hips in a straight line,” Amato said. “If this is too difficult, do your plank in a more upright position, leaning into a counter.”

If it feels overwhelming to start an exercise program, remember you can split them up throughout the day. That method is especially helpful if you’re working at a computer and need to get up and move every hour.

“When you have five or 10 free minutes, work on one or two exercises,” Amato said. “Then a couple of hours later when you have another break or free time, do a couple more.”

And don’t forget to take advantage of other online exercise classes: many local gyms and fitness centers are providing virtual options.

Don’t worry if you aren’t able to do as much exercise as you normally would.

“Something is always better than nothing,” Amato said. “Just try to maintain your strength, mobility and balance to tide you over until your routine is a little more normalized.”

For descriptions and videos of these exercises, visit medbridgego.com and use access code QTK74AWN. 

Susan Cunningham writes for UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at cunninghamsbc@gmail.com.