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Polis: ski towns should discourage certain guests as COVID-19 outbreak grows

March 11, 2020, 7:00 pm

Gov. Jared Polis used to represent Vail in Congress. His family still owns a home here. So he knows how vital travel and tourism is to the local economy. Still, he’s recommending ski areas discourage guests over the age of 60 with chronic health issues from traveling to Colorado’s high country.

Jared Polis
Gov. Jared Polis

That’s a big move – announced just after 5 p.m. at a COVID-19 press conference in Denver – because a lot of skiers are older, and because March is a huge month for the state’s multi-billion-dollar ski industry.

“It appears the virus will be disproportionately hitting our resort and mountain communities first,” Polis said, according to Westword. “… Avoid unnecessary travel to high-country areas with outbreaks.”

That would describe Aspen and surrounding Pitkin County, which saw six more confirmed presumptive positive cases on Wednesday, bringing the total there to nine – the most in the state.

Eagle County, which includes Vail and Beaver Creek, saw one more presumptive positive test on Wednesday, bringing total local cases to four. So that’s 13 between Vail and Aspen – out of 33 cases statewide.

Polis said ski-town medical facilities might not have the capacity to handle an influx of cases.

Also, Polis added that the spread of COVID-19 in Colorado’s ski country is not just coming from out-of-state guests.

“At this point, we can confirm community spread in the high country of Colorado,” Polis said, according to Westword. “We’re still investigating and have not confirmed community spread in Denver, but we’re treating it as if that’s actually happening.”

Here’s a press release generated from the Polis press conference:

Gov. Polis Announces Additional Measures to Address Spread of COVID-19 & Provides an Update on State’s Response to COVID-19

DENVER – Gov. Polis provided an update on the state’s response to COVID-19 this evening and urged Coloradans to exercise personal responsibility to protect public health, especially vulnerable populations like older Coloradans and those with underlying health conditions.

“This is a test of our Colorado character. We have been here before and we have prevailed before, from natural disasters like wildfires and floods to mass shootings to threats of terrorism and even past pandemics a century ago,” said Governor Jared Polis. “I am asking Coloradans to rise to the challenge once again and do your part to protect your health, the public health and the greater good. We are all in this together.”

The Governor issued guidance today to all K-12 schools recommending that if they have a student or faculty member who tests positive that they close for 72 hours, allowing for schools to be disinfected and for the epidemiologists to conduct an investigation and recommend next steps for those schools. More details on the guidance are available here.

The Governor applauded Colorado universities that have taken steps to limit the spread of coronavirus, and included additional guidance for colleges and universities to effectively respond to the threat of coronavirus.

The Governor instructed the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment and the Colorado Department of Human Services to engage in emergency rulemaking to limit visitation to facilities that serve older Coloradans, to screen all employees and visitors to these facilities, and to take necessary steps to protect those in these facilities. Older Coloradans and those with underlying health conditions are much more vulnerable to COVID-19.

The Governor also informed the public that guidance is forthcoming on protecting staff and those in our custody at Colorado’s 24/7 facilities such as correctional facilities.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment also provided information on social distancing, how to prevent community spread, ways Coloradans can reduce fear and take care of themselves.

Watch the press conference here.

Yesterday (Tuesday), Gov. Polis declared a state of emergency in response to COVID-19 (coronavirus). 

The declaration will help ensure resources are available to the state to combat COVID-19. The Governor directed the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment to engage in emergency rulemaking to ensure workers in food handling, hospitality, child care, health care, and education can get paid sick leave to miss work if they exhibit flu-like symptoms and have to miss work awaiting testing results for COVID-19. The Governor encouraged the private sector of Colorado to voluntarily offer paid sick leave so that we can collectively do our part to contain the virus. The emergency rulemaking was released today.

The declaration also directed the Department of Personnel and Administration (DPA) to engage in emergency rulemaking regarding state employees. The administration wants to ensure that state functions continue to run smoothly. For employees who may be put either in quarantine or isolation and can work from home, they should do so. If these workers fall ill and cannot perform their duties, they will be able to use paid leave, and the state will be flexible with that paid leave. For impacted employees who cannot work remotely, such as correctional officers, assisted living staff, etc., the administration is working to ensure paid leave options for those who are ill to ensure that those workers can continue to put food on the table while protecting public health.

The emergency declaration also directs the Department of Revenue to temporarily allow Coloradans over the age of 65 – a vulnerable population – to extend their driver’s licenses online to avoid having to congregate at DMVs at this time.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment also opened a drive-up lab at their facility in Lowry to test anyone who has a note from their doctor stating that they meet the criteria for testing. You must still have a doctor’s order to get tested at the new drive-up lab. That facility is located at 8100 E Lowry Blvd., Denver, CO 80230.

This week, the Polis administration took action to ensure Coloradans can get tested for COVID-19 without financial fear. Last week, the Governor directed all state agencies to implement the State Emergency Operations Plan. This is a plan that the state has used in the past to respond to a variety of incidents, including natural disasters like fires and floods, and it is designed to ensure we have the resources and systems in place to respond to COVID-19. 

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