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Eagle County restricts social gathering to fewer than 50 people to combat COVID-19

March 12, 2020, 6:56 pm

In response to the community spread of COVID-19, Eagle County Public Health has issued a Public Health Order that imposes restrictions on social gatherings. The order applies to gatherings of 50 people or more and will stay in effect until at least April 8.

The order does not apply to schools, and no schools in Eagle County have announced closures. “Event” does not include regular attendance of classes at schools because:

-The level of supervision by teachers and staff;
-Schools have already adjusted and increased the frequency of cleaning;
-Teachers can clean and disinfect within their respective classrooms;
-If necessary some social distancing policies can be put in place;
-Staff can monitor for illness and separate sick children and send them home;
-Students have easy access to handwashing facilities and supplies for children and teachers;
-Schools have been contacted and are taking actions that include planning, communicating with parents and families, adjusting cleaning protocols, considering what remote learning options can be implemented;
-When schools or childcare centers are closed, kids are often congregating in other locations and/or other family members (including older adults) may be necessary to provide care;
-We have learned what happens in large scale closures from H1 N1 influenza in
2009. For H1N1, the disease played a more significant role in children becoming sick than with COVID-19.

The definition of “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 does not apply to schools, restaurants, lift lines and the airport. It does apply to private events such as weddings and parties. 

Violation of the order is a misdemeanor offense; events exceeding 50 attendees will be disbanded by the Sheriff.

The action is being taken after consultation with partners across the county, as well as in coordination with Garfield, Gunnison, Pitkin and Summit counties, which are considering their own similar orders. 

Events of fewer than 50 people must still follow social distancing principles as listed in the order. For example, participants must be able to have a personal space of six feet or more. 

“While we understand that this decision is incredibly impactful to our community and unprecedented here, we believe it is critically necessary to protect public health and safety, including that of our first responders and medical providers as well as our community members at greatest risk of severe disease,” said Public Health and Environment Director Heath Harmon. “Our goal now is to minimize the impact of COVID-19 in Eagle County. Our partners in the medical community have indicated full support of this decision. We also hope that these measures will allow our community to recover from this outbreak as quickly as possible.”

The order comes as the Public Health Department shifts its goal from identifying COVID-19 cases to instead reducing impact. If you are not over the age of 60 and do not have pre-existing health conditions such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, chronic lung disease, then you are at low risk for severe disease. If you are at low risk, you do not need to be tested. Employers do not need to order testing of other employees if an employee tests positive. 

Community updates and resources are being shared at www.ECEmergency.org. Those with questions about COVID-19 can call the CO HELP Hotline at 1-877-462-2911.

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