Saturday, March 28, 2020

Elected officials in county updated on COVID-19 situation

RTA bus change details

By Mark Reaman

In a meeting of local public elected officials Saturday afternoon, Gunnison County healthcare personnel emphasized the importance of remaining calm but taking early action to help stem the spread of the coronavirus. Dr. Jason Hogan told the group of elected officials that included representatives of the county and local municipalities that “days matter” when it comes to taking action to stem the spread of the virus. So far at least six positive tests have been returned for people in the county.

“If we are too slow with several containment steps, we will have a surge of patients on the local healthcare system,” said Hogan. “If we take early containment measures, we can flatten the curve of it spreading. This is unchartered territory for all of us.”

According to the county, the hospital currently has two ventilators on site with two more on order that are on the way. He explained that if 10 percent of the vulnerable population needed to be hospitalized, there was no way there would be enough beds or resources to deal with them.

He again touched on the fact that there are not enough testing kits in the county, so the ones they have are being used on those they feel are most likely to have the virus and are in the highest risk groups. Of the 50 people who went to the drive-through screening station in Gunnison on Friday, Hogan said he tested ten but would have liked to have tested 35 more given their symptoms.

In the county’s 6 p.m. update tonight they announced they are moving away from posting the positive and negative numbers. “The numbers are helping with tracking the spread, but they do not reflect the prevalence of COVID-19 in our community. We advise all people who do not need to go out, to stay home. The main goal is to slow down the ramp up of this disease and protect those that are most vulnerable. While we are currently expanding capacity, our healthcare facilities and emergency services cannot handle a massive influx. The only way to slow the spread is to stay home. The ski resort has closed, and we are spreading the word that the Gunnison Valley is closed for business. Travel in and out of the community is highly discouraged. We don’t want to spread this to other areas or to bring anything back. For visitors, we ask that you find a place to hunker down through this pandemic and that may mean returning home.”

County Health and Human Services Director Joni Reynolds said the actions imposed by the county, including limiting gatherings to no more than 50 people, was, “a greater good for the community decision. It is to protect the 3,000 or so people we see as most vulnerable in the community.”

She said the number of 50 people as a maximum was arrived at by consulting national CDC guidelines.

She said two people had been hospitalized recently showing signs of the COVID-19 virus but neither had results returned. One was a patient in their 30s and the other was a two-year-old.

“This is all scary stuff,” said emergency incident commander C.J. Malcolm. “It’s okay to say that. We don’t want people to freak out but it’s stressful on all of us. We get it. But (County Emergency Management Director) Scott Morrill has done a fantastic job.”

When responding to a question from Crested Butte councilman Chris Haver, Reynolds said the ultimate protective measure would be to close all businesses and have people stay home. She said she wasn’t yet ready to take the health emergency order to that level.

County commissioner Jonathan Houck emphasized the importance of all the elected officials supporting the decisions of the health officials and the decisions they make in the unusual circumstances. “We need people to hear that we support the measures that are being enacted,” he said.

Malcolm made clear that while not everything in the county’s response has been perfect, it has been pretty good and others around the state and nation are watching to see what they can use in their communities. He again cited the call line as a great success.

The Call Center is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The phone number is 641-7660.

In the county’s community message tonight they wrote, “To make the experience for kids special and not scary we encourage you to recreate outside, board games, movie nights, fishing, hiking, or cross-country skiing. Any opportunity to explore while maintaining social distancing is encouraged. This goes for adults too. Across the globe, we are in uncharted territory. We can prop each other up as a community to get through this.”

RTA bus details

RTA executive director Scott Truex said the buses running up and down the valley would stick to its regular schedule for the time being but limit the number of riders to about half normal capacity.

“The RTA currently plans to run our full winter schedule for the next few days while following the County recommendation of limiting the number of passengers to approximately 25 (one per each two seats). Our sanitation procedures continue and the seats near the driver are blocked off to provide separation between the driver and the passengers. The reason for running the full schedule after the notice of the ski area closure is that there are a lot of people still here in the valley and we are limiting the number of people allowed on the buses. Hopefully the full schedule will get everyone where they are going while keeping everyone as safe as possible by maximizing the distance between passengers. We will be discussing service levels daily and may consider starting the spring schedule sometime later this week.

Due to the Mt. Express changes, CB South will not have service during peak times starting on Monday. Ridership has been very low on those buses lately, and with the ski area closure, this is likely not a big issue.

We want to be sure to take all necessary precautions while still providing our commuter bus service in a safe manner. Therefore, the buses are being sanitized daily with all hard surfaces being wiped down and the floors being mopped with Pine-Sol. Our contractor, Alpine Express, was able to procure a lot of rubber gloves and drivers are being encouraged to wear them and to limit physical contact with passengers. Alpine also procured a large quantity of baby-wipes which are being offered to our passengers so they can wipe down their seats, etc.

Drivers showing any symptoms are being asked to self-quarantine. Drivers over the age of 60 are being asked to wear masks. For everyone’s safety, people who are coughing will not be allowed on the buses.”

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