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What a face mask can do against COVID-19 and what it can’t

The federal government may recommend people wear masks in public, but the surgical and homemade masks gaining popularity offer only limited protection.

“I think there is a lot of benefit, but it’s really important that people understand what the benefit is, and also what the limitations are,” said Sarah Gordon, a Glenwood Springs native and consultant with Intrinsic Environment, Health & Safety.

According to Gordon, the greatest benefit to face masks isn’t that they keep out viruses, but that they stop people from touching their face as much.

Unlike the N-95 respirator used by health care professionals, which is in short supply, cloth masks and even surgical masks won’t keep out tiny viruses.

“The face masks don’t filter out the particle size of the virus. Viruses are tremendously tiny, and standard fabric is not going to filter out the virus,” Gordon said.

If someone lined up 1,000 microscopic COVID-19 virus particles end to end, it would be about the width of a human hair.

The novel coronavirus is the cause of the current pandemic, which breeds in the upper respiratory tract (nose, throat and mouth) and attacks the lungs.

While most facemasks won’t protect the wearer from contracting the disease, it can help an unwitting carrier of the virus from spreading it to others.

One of the ways wearing a mask could help slow the spread of disease, according to Gordon, is that people won’t touch their face as frequently.

“The benefit in wearing the facemask, for the general public, is that hopefully now that sneeze or sniffle or whatever it is, didn’t end up on their hands where they’re now going to touch a grocery cart, or a doorknob, or an elevator button,” Gordon said.

That is important since it’s possible someone might have the new coronavirus and spread it before showing symptoms.

And some who get it might not exhibit symptoms at all.

As many as 25 percent of people with COVID-19 might not have any symptoms, but could still spread the disease, CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield said Tuesday in an interview with a National Public Radio affiliate.

While wearing a mask might help, it is not a complete solution to avoiding COVID-19.

In Gordon’s work, which involves advising laboratories on protecting researchers from pathogens and other hazards, personal protective equipment is only part of how people stay safe.

“If you’re going to wear a homemade mask, you cannot let your guard down for all the other hygiene practices we all need to be doing,” Gordon said.

Those include frequent hand washing, avoiding going out in public, and maintaining 6 feet of distance.

Any viruses that are aerosolized in a sneeze or cough will get through the mask, Gordon said.

Even if the mask was made from a tightly weaved material, was sealed well to the face, it wouldn’t stop all particles from getting through.

“In a perfect scenario, you may have a mask that can slow down 60 percent of the viruses,” Gordon said.

Still, the masks can be beneficial because people won’t be touching their face as often.

The CDC so far has not advised the general public to wear facemasks. But it has recommended that people who are sick wear masks.

Others, inkling Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, have begun urging the government to advise Americans to don homemade masks.

To gain all the benefits of wearing a homemade mask, using tightly-knit materials that isn’t frayed is important.

Some do-it-yourself mask patterns have an outer layer, an inner layer and a pocket for disposable filters — Gordon says putting a HEPA vacuum filter in a mask pocket could help, as long as it’s not too difficult to breath through it.

Another important factor in homemade masks is what’s called cheek fit, or how well the mask seals to the skin.

To ensure that air doesn’t flow between the mask and the skin, it should be as tight as possible. That’s why elastic bands aren’t ideal, since it can lose its tautness. 

It’s also a good idea to sew wire in the mask where it goes over the nose, to squeeze it into a shape that fits the face.

Gordon advises people store masks in a plastic bag, until they can be washed with soap and water. Having two masks so that one can be laundered while another is available for use is a good idea, Gordon said.


Editor’s note: This post has been updated for clarity.

Roaring Fork Schools’ adopted 2020-21 calendar includes earlier start to summer break

Assuming things proceed as normal for next school year after the disruptions this spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Roaring Fork Schools are looking to an earlier start to summer break.

After taking surveys from staff, parents, students and other community members, the Roaring Fork District school board recently adopted the calendar for 2020-21 and tentatively for the ’21-22 year, as well.

Survey data collected from more 2,000 respondents informed the district’s calendar committee, which presented its recommendations to the school board on March 11.

“The feedback indicated that stakeholders generally were satisfied with the current calendar, but wanted small changes made, including a longer summer break,” the committee concluded. “The majority of stakeholders were willing to shorten other breaks during the year, including fall break and spring break), in order to end the school year earlier.”

Barring any lingering impacts from the current public health emergency that has schools closed to in-person learning until April 30 (per Gov. Jared Polis’s latest order issued Wednesday), next school year will begin Aug. 17 and end May 27, 2021.

School is set to end this year on June 4, and in some prior years that end date has landed in the second week of June.

The new calendar was approved unanimously by the school board, 5-0.

Next year’s calendar largely mirrors this year’s calendar, with the following changes: 

  • Ending the school year in late May to lengthen summer by one week
  • Shortening spring break to one full week, March 22-26, 2021
  • Shortening fall break to one day, providing three-day weekend Oct. 16-18
  • Adjusting parent-teacher conference days to better align with instructional weeks (on Oct. 30 and March 19). 

During the March 11 meeting, the board did hear from one Basalt parent who requested the district look at scheduling spring break in April, instead of March. The idea would be to avoid what’s usually a busy stretch for the Aspen ski resorts when many parents have to work and can’t take advantage of the school break to travel or spend time with their children, who are out of school.

Angie Davlyn, senior project manager for the school district, said the calendar committee did look at an April spring break option, but decided it wasn’t feasible.

For teachers in particular, April is a difficult month to have students off because that’s when the Colorado Department of Education requires standardized testing to be done for most students, she said.

Superintendent Rob Stein added that the Roaring Fork Schools try to align their spring break with neighboring Garfield Re-2 Schools. Because a fair number of district staff live west of Glenwood Springs and have children in Re-2 schools, the spring break weeks need to be the same, he said.

The 2020-21 calendar is expected to come up for consideration on second reading at the board’s April 7 meeting.


Plan extra time to drive through Glenwood Canyon

Starting Friday, all Interstate 70 traffic through Glenwood Canyon will be head-to-head on what are typically the eastbound lanes as the Colorado Department of Transportation ramps up construction.

Westbound traffic will be diverted to the lower deck at near the Hanging Lake Tunnel, and use a single lane of the eastbound track to No Name rest area.

The detour is expected to cause significant delays for the duration of the project, which could last 8 months.

“Delay times will vary depending on travel volumes in the canyon. Plan for an additional 30 minutes to your travel time, especially during morning and evening peak hours,” said Elise Thatcher, regional communications manager for CDOT.

CDOT will have digital work zone sign boards estimating the length of delays.

“It’s important for CDOT to provide the best information possible for motorists,” said Michael Goolsby, regional transportation director for northwest Colorado.

“This is an innovative approach to providing up-to-the-minute conditions for drivers in a location where cell service and other communications are limited.”

The main purpose of the closures is to resurface the pavement with polyester concrete overlay, which CDOT believes will be more durable in harsh conditions, like ice and snow, and even the occasional rockfall.

To sign up for updates on lane closures, or ask questions, call or text 970-618-5379, or email GlenwoodCanyon2020@gmail.com.

Carbondale calls for volunteers

The Carbondale Emergency Task Force is looking for volunteers to help out with the community’s work supporting seniors and others who have to quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The task force wants volunteers who can deliver meals to at-risk individuals and the elderly, through either the Carbondale Recreation Center or Valley Meals and More, a nonprofit partner.

Currently, Valley Meals delivers 27 meals on Tuesdays and Thursdays in Carbondale, but with more people stuck in quarantine, they expect demand to increase.

Other volunteers could help by making care calls to check in with high-risk individuals over the phone.

The Carbondale Rec Center is providing a number of services to those in quarantine, including assistance obtaining medications, dog walking, meal delivery from restaurants with takeout, and emotional support.

Those in need should call the Rec Center’s hotline at 970-510-1292.

The task force also is looking for volunteers who can contribute their expertise in areas of health, economy, strategic communications, human capital, finance, technology, advocacy, and crisis response.

Under COVID-19 lockdown, local governments turn to tech

Along with every other organization that can, local governments are moving public meetings online — and encountering 21st-century challenges.

“People are having a hard time staying connected because of all the demands on the cell and internet systems currently,” Garfield County Spokeswoman Renelle Lott said.

Garfield County commissioners are using a combination of systems, including streaming video platform Granicus, and conference lines for public comments, to maintain public engagement during the coronavirus pandemic.

With the added pressure on the streaming service and a hardware issue that predated the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., the county’s streaming system can be spotty.

There was also a technical hardware issue that came up that is unresolved, since the California factory that makes the replacement equipment has shut down due temporarily during the quarantine.

The way bandwidth is allocated is also shifting more to homes, causing some hiccups in service during video conference calls.

 “If you think about internet providers and where the traffic was concentrated at larger entities prior to this, it’s now from people’s homes,” Lott said.

“That changes the whole technical side of how streaming would be managed within the internet to some degree,” Lott said.

The county is far from the only local governing body that is working to adapt so they can continue necessary board and council meetings.

Glenwood Springs’ charter requires the council to meet at least twice a month, and while they canceled the March 19 meeting, they held a special meeting Thursday via Zoom, an online videoconferencing service.

“The public is still able to participate in that manner as well. It’s an evolving aspect for us at the moment, but we’re moving ahead with that plan,” said Hannah Klausman, spokeswoman for the city of Glenwood Springs.

“What I understand from Zoom is that it does have a pretty high capacity for meetings with up to 1,000 participants, and also the capacity for people to view it as well in a much higher number,” Klausman said.

Carbondale’s board of trustees won’t meet until April 14, but the town is looking at a similar combination of services.

“We are finalizing the technology and will be testing it to ensure the public can participate,” Carbondale Town Manager Jay Harrington said.

“At this point we are looking at a blend of Zoom and YouTube, when we finalize it we will be letting the public know how they can participate in our meetings,” Harrington said.

Carbondale and Glenwood Springs also have an additional hurdle in public business.

Ballots have already gone out for the April special election, which has not been postponed.

With town hall closed to the public, Carbondale advises everyone to vote soon and mail or drop off the ballots early.

“I am encouraging everyone to vote early and if they haven’t received a ballot by now to email or call me so a lot of people don’t show up on (April) 7,” Carbondale Town Clerk Cathy Derby said.  “We will only allow one person into town hall at a time on election day,” she said.

In addition to social distancing from the public, ballot counters will also take precautions against spreading or contracting COVID-19.

“My four judges will be spaced well over 6 feet apart and they will wear gloves at all times,” Derby said.

Glenwood Springs will also provide gloves, and distance the ballot counters by 6 feet for the April 14 election. The city will also allow only one person to enter the municipal building at a time.


Obituary: Josephine Kinder

Josephine M. Kinder August 10, 1934 – March 13, 2020

Josephine passed away peacefully at Renew Roaring Fork Memory Care in Glenwood Springs. She was a devoted wife, loving mother, and beloved Grandmother/Great Grandmother. Her death follows that of her beloved Husband, Raymond Kinder. She enjoyed family gatherings, cooking and bingo. She is survived by her four daughters, Judy & Mike Morrison, Sue & Donnie Potter, Barb Kinder, Jojo & Scott Toombs; three grandchildren, Breck, Kim & Nicholas and four great-grandchildren, Dakota, Sierra, Jordan and Rhylee.

Born in Chicago, Illinois she and her husband moved to Colorado in 1953. They were both business owners in Colorado.

Cremation has taken place and a Celebration of Life will be scheduled at a later time. Jo will be missed by many, yet will remain in our hearts forever.

Glenwood Springs City Council to look at possibly restricting vacation rentals during stay-at-home order

Despite a statewide stay-at-home order, some vacation rentals in Glenwood Springs remain available.

Thursday, at its regularly scheduled meeting, city council will look at possible restrictions for VRBOs (vacation rentals by owner) during the stay-at-home order.

“If people flee big cities and come here, I don’t think that’s a good idea until we know how bad this is going to get,” said Councilor Tony Hershey. “We can’t have people coming here and getting sick, or bringing COVID(-19) from other places.”

According to Public Information Officer Hannah Klausman, Glenwood Springs has 99 vacation rentals on the grid – 88 short-term rentals and 11 accessory tourist rentals.

Short-term rental owners can rent out an entire residence whereas those operating accessory tourist rentals can only offer a single room.

The city has not limited any vacation rental owner’s ability to rent out  property to guests at this time.

“All of this has to boil down to common sense,” Councilor Rick Voorhees said. “I hope the short term rental people haven’t been booking new reservations.”

Some vacation rentals in Glenwood Springs still show availability on sites like vrbo.com. whereas others will not accept any reservations until the end of April.

Many area hotels and motels have also elected to close their doors temporarily and voluntarily.

The state’s standing public health order identifies “Hotels, and places of accommodation” as a critical business exempt from Gov. Jared Polis’ stay-at-home order.

“Every exemption that we make just seems to allow another loophole for somebody,” Voorhees said. “At some point self-responsibility has to take over.”

At last week’s special city council meeting, councilors did not vote on a resolution that would have adopted the city’s own public health order.

Many of the restrictions in Glenwood’s public health order were already instituted in Gov. Jared Polis’ executive order declared shortly before council’s own special meeting.

However, the city’s own public health order would have placed stricter regulations on short-term lodging businesses including hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts and short-term rentals.

“We do not have enough ICU beds, we do not have enough ventilators to accommodate an influx of people from other areas,” Mayor Jonathan Godes said. “Any venue that contributes to, potentially, the transportation or transmission of infected people from one community to the next – we got to shut it down.”

Had it been approved as written last Thursday, the city’s public health order would have prevented short-term lodging businesses from taking new reservations from March 26 until an unspecified date in April.

The city’s order would have also forced short-term lodging units to vacate their premises with some exceptions; local workers, individuals experiencing symptoms of illness and anyone under a quarantine or isolation order from Garfield County would have been permitted to stay.

Whether or not council decides to adopt any of those additional measures remains to be seen at Thursday’s meeting.

“I just want to have the discussion,” Hershey said.


Re-2 goes virtual during pandemic

Nearly 60 participants logged on to virtual meetings for a special school board session Tuesday in western Garfield County.

With the stay-at-home order in place the Garfield School District Re-2 is moving ahead with board meetings electronically through Zoom as they prepare to launch distance learning for students.

“We did launch our distance learning plans. Families received a communication last Friday outlining the time line of what we wanted to accomplish between now and April 17,” director of curriculum, instruction and assessment Julie Knowles said.

“For now the governor has declared that schools are officially closed through April 17. He did hint Monday that the closure may be extended.”

The district has been working at a feverish pace with instructional coaches, department heads and teacher leaders to train staff as they prepare to launch distance learning April 6.

Roger Gose, director of instructional technology, said the district is primarily using Google Classroom to help teachers supply lessons for students to complete online during the school closures.

Schools in the district are currently calling families, checking in on them, reestablishing relationships after losing contact for the last couple of weeks.

“During that call they are asking each family about their tech needs, internet access and devices for their student,” Gose said.

“We want every kid to have the best opportunity that they can to learn, and we want to make sure those devices are working properly for them.”

The district is using a drive-thru pickup procedure for families, which they believe is the safest way to get the devices to families that need them.

Gose said they are emphasizing that schools are following all the requirements for social distancing and maximum group sizes during this time.

Attendance will not be taken, and no grades will be given out between now and April 17.

“This time is really going to be dedicated to reconnecting with families, making sure they have the services they need, making sure they have the support and getting the technology distributed. We are very keenly aware of the very fragile place families are in right now, and proceed with caution,” Knowles said.

“If indeed the governor does decide to extend the school closure we may have to revisit, we may have to evolve our plan, and be a little more thoughtful on what grading and credit recovery looks like.”


Around the Corner: Harkening back to my wasteful youth

With the toilet paper aisles empty in pretty much every store in the community, I cannot help but think of how wasteful I was in my youth.

Like most adolescents who grew up in a quiet rural community, my friends and I spent countless hours and nights tossing roll after roll of Charmin over the eaves of classmates’ houses every weekend.

I can’t imagine what my parents must have thought as they had to restock the house supply of TP on a weekly basis.

While most teenagers were out drinking or partaking in illicit behavior, I ran with a group of close friends that pulled pranks, gags and sometimes just walked around the empty streets of Jerome, Idaho, playing fun games to keep one another entertained.

Being part of the good kids club meant we had fun without damaging property or breaking any laws. We might have pushed the line between mischief and mayhem a few times, but it was all in an effort to occupy our idle hands and minds. 

It all began as little pranks of maybe filling the tree in the front yard of one of the cute girls we grew up with, with a dozen rolls of bath tissue, but it escalated quickly.

Nothing was of limits, from homes, a car, to yard ornaments. You name it, we probably wrapped it in TP.

We even had a home base in the local park where we would meet, plot and set out from on the way to our next target.

We would run reconnaissance missions, marking our next target, planning the best way to attack, and always looking for our next opportunity.

Like most rural towns we had only one stoplight, right in the center of town.

One night, on a return trip through the heart of J-Town after another successful mission, one of my friends blurted out we should TP the intersection.

As we loitered in front of a prominent insurance building scheming about how we could complete the task, a police cruiser stopped at the red light after leaving the station just a few blocks down the street.

I have no idea who said it, but all I heard was someone ask — what would they do if we ran. Without another word, we all took off, and sure enough they came after us.

I wasn’t blessed with the ability to run fast, but I could be elusive at times. Our group was made of mostly high school football players. I was on the team as well; to this day when people ask me what position I played I tell them — Left Out.

On that night my slipperiness prevailed, and I returned to our rally point where most of our group was waiting unscathed.

We did a head count and noticed two members were missing. As we all caught our breath, out of the corner of our eyes rolled up that same police cruiser.

Sitting in the back of said cruiser were the two missing members of the club.

The officers did a great job keeping a straight face, as did our two friends acting like they were cuffed as they got out of the car. Turns out the officers were bored as well and just wanted to have a little fun with us.

The encounter did however convince us to lay low for a bit. It took us a month or maybe less to stockpile our supplies, before we decided to carry out the plan, which was to cover the intersection with as many brands of bath tissue as we could find.

With two to three people on each corner, we chucked rolls of tissue back and forth to one another trying to clog the intersection with as much toilet paper as possible. 

The screeching of tires and blaring sirens rushing towards us shattered the silence of the crisp fall night, less than 20 minutes into our elaborate plan.

Like the pellets in a shotgun shell everyone scattered.

Unlike our last brush with the law my elusiveness didn’t pay off, as one officer cut me off as I took a shortcut between buildings, nearly sliding under his vehicle as I put on the brakes.

When I jumped all I heard was “freeze!” Like I was carved in stone, I didn’t move an inch.

I and the other slowest member of the group were the only two nabbed, and to make sure we didn’t get any ideas of trying the prank again, the officers made my cohort and me pick up every single piece of tissue we had left at the scene.

And of course that was the only time there was traffic, a line of cars sat idling at the intersection, watching and laughing as we tried to gather all the tissue strewn across the road and on the light poles. 

As I sit here, having lost track of how many days I have been working from home, keeping my trips out as limited as possible for a journalist. All I can do is watch our supply of bathroom tissue dwindle day by day, and wish I had not wasted the stockpile I did in my youth.

I find myself telling my family to limit their use — 3 to 4 square limit please, I catch myself yelling as they head for the bathroom.


CRFR adapts to pandemic with service innovations

As Garfield County and the state of Colorado reels from the COVID-19 pandemic, Colorado River Fire Rescue Chief Randy Callahan said the department continues normal service while trying to evolve and innovate ways to keep the department and community safe. 

“Our last five weeks has been nothing but change,” Callahan said. “Our folks are not only adapting to it, but they are out front leading it.”

In addition to their daily response, Colorado River Fire Rescue prepares for the usual increased spring/summer time incidents including floods, mudslides and wildfires.

Callahan said one of the biggest challenges is that fire departments are built upon the value of community engagement.

All of CRFR’s stations are currently on lockdown, which Callahan said is hard for the department, and they are struggling with the self-isolation, while continuing community service.

“We are the safe haven, we are where you come for help, and now you have to come and ring the doorbell,” Callahan said.

“That’s a huge change, but we have to keep it out of the stations.”

CRFR is responding to this large-scale, complex, and inter-agency event with a preparedness, response and communication mindset. Callahan said that throughout the organization, CRFR staff at all levels is providing innovative assistance, adapting to new behaviors and demonstrating the resourcefulness of an agile workforce.

CRFR first responders are wearing different protective equipment than usual along with Tyvek suits when they respond to COVID-19 calls, with no calls clearing the hospital until the crew and the ambulances are decontaminated.

Callahan said the new procedures are in place to prevent and minimize exposure that would require quarantining paramedics and firefighters.

CRFR has developed Incident Action Plans on a 48-hour cycle in an attempt to communicate current expectations and future planning. 

They have also worked with county fire agencies to form an EMS group that meets daily with county responders and hospitals.  

Callahan said this group is working on acquiring protective gear, standardized response protocols, and single medical direction for COVID-19 operations.

Callahan said he is thankful that several companies in the community are donating protective equipment to the department.

As essential workers, CRFR employees carry their ID badges to assure unrestricted travel to and from work. Administrative staff is working remotely from home, maintaining the needs of operational personnel and the communities CRFR serves.

CRFR had to postpone its Recruit Academy at CMC and canceled training at the complex.

Callahan said the board approved a Declaration of Local Disaster emergency on March 24.

“It allows us to do emergency operational preparation, and may lead to additional resources and cost recoveries,” Callahan said.

“CRFR is committed to serving its citizens and communities with a service-minded and community-engaged approach. Our focus is keeping our responders safe so they can serve the communities and keep the folks safe.”