Local volunteers making a huge impact in the county response

Getting creative to use local energy

By Mark Reaman

More than 400 local people have stepped up to volunteer their time to the county’s effort to battle the coronavirus outbreak. Incident command team volunteer coordinator Arden Anderson reported this week that 412 people have registered as volunteers through the county.

The initial effort to organize volunteers was focused on manning the call center. From there the thought of using volunteers to deliver food and medicine was prioritized. With so many people offering their time, Anderson said many gaps could be filled.

“We are getting creative every day,” Anderson said. “We are using more volunteers in our incident command center to help us enter data, track hours, follow up with patients, help with supporting the command staff. We have some folks working at home sewing masks to keep our medical professionals safe. As soon as we find a need, I try to figure out how my volunteers might be able to fulfill that need.”

There is still a need for people with the call center but not as much as last week. “Call volume has decreased a bit so we have downsized to six operators, a medical control person, sometimes a Spanish interpreter and a supervisor. In addition we have established an expanded capability of three operators being available for our delivery assistance hotline ((970) 641-7959),” Anderson explained.

“This is going from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week to help people schedule deliveries. Our operators can also help folks who need help navigating the online ordering systems for City Market. We are also handling delivery orders from the food pantry. Anyone who needs help with deliveries should call this hotline during our business hours and not the senior transportation dispatch that we were using last week.”

Anderson said the delivery service is working well so far but they want to use that service for those who really need it. Anderson said he has more than 200 drivers available to help with this program.

“Our main limiting factor is that City Market has a limited number of orders they can fill in a day. As a result they are backed up,” he explained. “The folks who most need this service are those who are older, immune-compromised, tested positive or self-isolating because of contact with positive patients. It is essential that these folks can continue to isolate successfully at home and getting grocery deliveries to them is an essential part of that. It is still relatively safe for younger, healthier people to shop in person at City Market as long as they maintain social distancing as much as possible. We are encouraging the folks who can shop safely to do that and refrain from using the online ordering to save that for the folks who really need it.”

Anderson said there are two drivers per two-hour shift, with four shifts through the day. The volunteers are backed up by folks at senior transportation if needed. “We deliver just the essentials—groceries and prescriptions—but we go anywhere in the valley from Mt. Crested Butte to Gunnison, Ohio Creek Valley, Pitkin and Sargents,” he said. “We require all our drivers to go through safety training before they start. Our protocols are set up to maintain social distancing and reduce contact between driver and client. We basically deliver to their doorstep, ring the bell or knock and stand back to make sure they get it.”

Overall, Anderson reiterated the basics to take during this unusual situation. “We encourage folks to really follow the isolation orders as much as possible, especially if they are showing any signs or symptoms—they are essential,” he emphasized. “If people do go out, be sure to maintain social distancing. Wash those hands, cover those coughs. Getting out in nature is a great way to keep from going stir crazy and very safe as long as you maintain social distancing.

“Look out for each other,” Anderson continued. “Call your friends and make social contact over the phone, FaceTime, Skype or other communication tools to help fend off the negative effects of loneliness and depression. We are all a bit scared or uncertain but we are less scared together.”

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