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Rod Powell, a Vail après-ski musical icon, became Eagle County’s first coronavirus victim on Saturday, succumbing to COVID-19 after fighting for his life since last week in an intensive care unit at a hospital in Denver.
Originally from Saint Joseph, Missouri, Powell was also a longtime Vail Valley realtor, most recently for Berkshire Hathaway starting in July of 2015.
Powell played for and in front of many celebrities over the years at Pepi’s, a bar and restaurant named for its famous Austrian ski-racing founder, who passed on just last summer.
Powell once had legendary singer-songwriter Dan Fogelberg take $20 from his tip jar when Powell spotted Fogelberg in the back of the bar with famed Austrian ski racer Franz Klammer. Powell ended his set by saying, “Good night, folks, I’m Dan Fogelberg,” according to a 2004 story in the Vail Daily. Fogelberg told Powell he had to pay to use his name.
Friends and family members remembered Powell and had been tracking his condition for days on Powell’s Facebook page.
One friend wrote that Powell was up skiing on March 6, the day Eagle County recorded its first confirmed case of COVID-19. By the next day he was feeling sick, and by Tuesday, March 10, Powell had been intubated at Vail Health and then rushed to Denver, where for more than a week he had been on life support.
“Sadly, Rod got sick just days before we learned terms like ‘social distancing’ and ‘sheltering in place’ and their importance in keeping us safe, and as a result, his life changed in an instant,” the friend wrote. “Please continue to pray for Rod, and please stay safe!”
Powell’s death comes just a day after Vail Mayor Dave Chapin, also a fixture of the Vail bar and restaurant scene at Vendettas, announced he has tested positive for the disease and is in isolation.
Eagle County has been a Colorado hot spot for COVID-19 with 69 confirmed cases as of Saturday but, according to Vail Health CEO Will Cook, potentially hundreds if not thousands more untested and unconfirmed cases.
Cook warned the 57-bed Vail Health facility is nearing capacity and that people who become sickened by the virus in Eagle County will have to be transported to Denver, where hospitals are also quickly filling up. Cook urged strict social distancing and isolation.
Congressman Joe Neguse, whose district includes Vail, issued the following statement on the death of Powell:
“I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of Rod Powell from Vail, Colorado. Rod was a vibrant part of our community, and we are all grieving for his family, friends and the entire Vail community at this time. Our thoughts and prayers are with Rod’s loved ones and all of Eagle County who have experienced the full force of this public health crisis over the last few weeks.
“I urge everyone to continue to comply with the guidance of our state and local health departments, to make wise and practical decisions and to stay safe throughout this public health crisis. We are resilient, and we will get through this together.”
Eagle County public health officials put out the following press release:
March 21, 2020 – Eagle County Public Health and Environment has confirmed the first death of an Eagle County resident from COVID-19. The patient was a male in his 60s with underlying health conditions. He died at a Denver-area hospital.
“It is with a heavy heart that we are confirming the loss of one of our community members from COVID-19. We are extremely saddened by the news and extend our deepest condolences to the family,” said Heath Harmon, Director of Eagle County Public Health and Environment. “The news of this loss in our community serves as a solemn reminder that COVID-19 can pose greater risks to some members of our community, in particular older adults and people with pre-existing health conditions. We must all take steps to protect our families, ourselves, our friends, and our community.”
Residents should take the following steps to decrease their chances of getting COVID-19:
Testing resources and the time it takes to get results has been a significant limiting factor in the availability of testing in Eagle County, as well as nationally. Public health officials still recommend that if you feel sick, stay home and contact your medical provider. They will be able to provide the most direct guidance relative to your health circumstances. This may or may not include testing. Scarce testing supplies are being prioritized most often for people that may be at greater risk of severe disease or for people that may be actively responding to the outbreak, like healthcare workers and first responders.
Symptoms of COVID-19:
Those who experience symptoms should stay home for 10 days after their symptoms develop or until 3 days after their symptoms are gone, whichever is longer. This is true for anyone that tests positive for COVID-19 or anyone that has symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and is either awaiting test results or has not been tested. Anyone that is a household member or otherwise a close contact of someone confirmed with COVID-19, should monitor themselves for development of illness and also stay home for 14 days. Health officials remind people that staying home when sick is critical to slowing the spread of this novel coronavirus in the community.
“We really want people to avoid crowds or congregations, period. This means staying at home as much as you can,” said Harmon. “Of course we all need to get groceries, medications, and there are other essential needs. We are recommending you limit your time away from home to these essential services. Please refrain from having playdates for your children or sporting activities that may require groups of people to play, like basketball. Exercise, walking, hiking, and biking outdoors is definitely still okay. This will help support our physical and emotional health. We just need to recognize that doing these activities in groups of people is simply not best for you or our community at this time.”
As more local businesses have closed in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Eagle County Department of Human Services and local nonprofits are helping to meet the growing food and economic needs of many families throughout the county. Residents that have the ability to help out financially are asked to consider making donations to their local charitable organization.
For more information about COVID-19 in Eagle County, visit www.ECEmergency.org. The site includes regular updates related to COVID-19, as well as other emergencies that may impact our community. In addition, an Eagle County COVID-19 Monitoring dashboard has been set up to help share more real-time information publicly.
Residents may also contact the CO HELP Hotline at 1-877-462-2911 to ask specific questions about COVID-19.