Garfield, Pitkin and Eagle counties ban most gatherings of more than 50 people in response to COVID-19 spreading, advocate social distancing
With multiple cases in the surrounding counties are beginning social distancing and cancellation and postponement of large gatherings
Updated 8:42 p.m. Thursday:
Garfield, Pitkin and Eagle counties are barring gatherings of more than 50 people until at least April 9.
Acknowledging that “Not only has COVID-19 presented in our tri-county region, but there has also been community transmission between affected individuals,” public health directors for all three counties said in a joint news release. “The role of counties is to protect the health, safety and welfare of their citizens.”
The COVID-19 disease attacks the respiratory system, and causes symptoms similar to the flu, including coughing, fever, and shortness of breath. As with most viruses, the most susceptible are the elderly, and people with asthma or other chronic illnesses.
“As of right now we still have no presumptive positive cases. We are still working assertively to prepare best for the virus,” Valley View Hospital spokesperson Stacey Gavrell said. “We still have specific efforts underway to ensure our patients and staff remain our top priority.”
The news release defines gatherings as an “event is a gathering for business, social, or recreational activities including, but not limited to, community, civic, public, leisure, or sporting events; parades; concerts; festivals; assemblies; conventions; fundraisers; and similar activities.”
The order was authorized under Colorado statutes 25-1-506 and 25-1-508, which provide local public health directors to “investigate and control the causes of the epidemic or communicable disease and conditions affected public health,” according to the release.
Gatherings of less than 50 people are prohibited unless measures are taken by event organizers to minimize risk.
Schools are unaffected and it’s not currently recommended that they close, the release states. However, that could change and parents should begin to consider planning for prolonged closures.
In particular, schools should plan for how to continue to provide non-educational support for their students such as providing food, developmental disability support, and school-based healthcare.
Events where small groups gather, such as skiing, are OK as long as social distancing takes place. It’s recommended that individuals limit contact of people within 6 feet from each other.
Restaurants are also unaffected by the gathering ban as long as social distancing takes place. Older adults and people with underlying medical conditions are encouraged to not attend such events.
“Such actions will help hospitals, first responders, and other healthcare services continue to provide services for those who need them (along with utilities, human services, and businesses) in the coming weeks and months,” the release states.
Although there won’t be active enforcement of the ban, reports of violations would result in contacting “the organizer to educate and provide guidance.”
Many Roaring Fork Valley organizations had already canceled events. Both Valley View Hospital and Grand River Health have canceled or postponed upcoming events to help limit the potential for exposure at large gatherings.
“We have canceled all remaining health fairs, out of an abundance of caution but also appreciating the increased role of social distancing and helping better slow the spread of COVID-19,” Gavrell said.
It was announced earlier this week that Grand River Health’s annual fundraiser Empty Bowls would be postponed and hopefully rescheduled at a later date.
“We have canceled all large events and most of our smaller events as well based on the guidelines form public health,” Grand River Health spokesperson Annick Pruett said.
“Events like the Health Fair, any of the lunch and learns, Baby and Me, and those types of events have been canceled,” she said. “We are just trying to keep our community safe like everybody else is.”
Both Hospitals continue to limit access and are administering verbal screenings to those who think they might have symptoms.
Both Pruett and Gavrell said that they recommend people who believe they are showing symptoms of COVID-19 to call first for an over-the-phone screening.
“We totally acknowledge that this is causing stress and anxiety across our community. I think what we need people to help with is if there is someone that would not ordinarily see their doctor based on how they feel they do not need to be evaluated or tested for COVID-19,” Gavrell said.
“They can self-quarantine, reach out to public health and make sure they are coordinating with them. Public health is also able to do monitoring of people.”
Pruett also encouraged residents to call first if they think they are ill.
“We definitely want you to talk to someone before you come in just as a safety precaution,” she said. “The state is pretty clear on who they are testing and who they are not testing. There is certainly an algorithm they go through before they do those tests.”
Pruett said for most people that are relatively healthy even if they test positive it will be like any other virus, but where the concern is for those that are the most vulnerable are those with compromised immune systems, the elderly and those with other underlying health issues.
Currently, Valley View has four tests out waiting for results from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Initially, Valley View had hoped for a 24-hour turnaround, but they are experiencing a five-day turnaround from the CDPHE.
“It’s not an issue of Valley View running the tests, we collect the specimens here from people that meet the criteria and need to be screened,” Gavrell said. “That goes to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment who are doing the actual tests.”
Pruett reiterated that people need to continue to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds.
“We can’t stress that enough. I know people are tired of hearing that, but it really is the best thing that you can do,” Pruett said. “And if you’re not feeling well stay home.”
LIFT-UP TAKES PRECAUTIONS
Rifle-based nonprofit LIFT-UP will close its thrift stores in Rifle and Parachute through Wednesday due to the COVID-19 situation. The closure will help the staff keep up with the food pantries.
In addition, Extended Table service in Rifle and Glenwood Springs will be suspended until further notice while staff, partners and the community work on options.
The LIFT-UP Food Pantries are currently operating under regular hours, but are in need of additional volunteers in order to stay open for those in need.
CARBONDALE EVENT POSTPONED
Carbondale Arts announced Thursday morning they are postponing the 12th annual Green is the New Black Fashion Extravaganza due to the recommendations of Garfield County Public Health in response to COVID-19.
“It was really heartbreaking, last night we had a emergency board meeting to go over the most updated information. Based off the Garfield County Public Health suggestion and general safety for the public it was becoming more and more clear the safest choice for the community as a whole would be to postpone it,” Carbondale Arts Marketing and Communications Director Sarah Overbeck said.
Even with no confirmed cases in Garfield County, Carbondale Arts decided to err on the side of caution. The event is to be moved to Nov. 12-14.
“There’s definitely been quite a few tears shed over this decision. It’s definitely somber around here, but there was a certain point we couldn’t ignore it,” Overbeck said.
5POINT FILM FESTIVAL POSTPONED
Carbondale’s 5Point Adventure Film Festival 2020 also announced Thursday that the event scheduled for April 22-26 will be postponed to Oct. 14-18, 2020, “in an effort to help support the local community and region stem the pandemic of COVID-19,” according to a news release.
“It is with a heavy heart that we have made the decision to postpone 5Point Adventure Film Festival in April, in light of the COVID-19 and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for how organizations can help stem the pandemic,” said Regna Jones, executive director of 5Point Film, according to release.
“This festival has always been about community and right now, this is how we can best support our valley and our friends across the country and world,” Jones said. “We are very excited about our programming this year, and we look forward to being together in the fall.
“The 5Point team will continue to develop its ‘On the Road’ programming for the summer with ongoing assessments along the way. It’s our commitment to produce meaningful experiences that inspire people of all walks of life, and we anticipate a fruitful summer and fall season.”
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