Breckenridge officials discuss COVID-19 case rise and prevention measures in community update
BRECKENRIDGE — Breckenridge and Summit County officials discussed a recent rise in COVID-19 cases, the virus in the workplace and enforcement of public health ordinances at a community update meeting.
As Summit County is currently in safer-at-home Level 2, which is labeled “concern” by the state’s dial dashboard, Breckenridge Mayor Eric Mamula called on community members to help keep Summit County open.
“No matter what your opinions of the disease (are) … there is another concern here that is not about the health, and that’s about keeping our community open,” Mamula said. “… In particular as the town of Breckenridge — we’re not necessarily the ones that are going to tell us if we can stay open or what industries get to stay open or what happens with the schools. All we can do is try to drive the message home that following the steps that public health has laid out will help us get to a successful ski season.”
Mamula added that he doesn’t think Summit County’s public health department is asking for too much of people with health measures, like mask wearing and physical distancing. He said employers need to be taking care of their employees when they’re quarantined or isolated and noted that tax rebates are available for employers in this case.
Public Health Director Amy Wineland noted it would be very extreme for the county to return to a shutdown. She explained that during the shutdown, hospital capacity was increased and testing capabilities were expanded, so if the county moves to a more restrictive level of safer-at-home, officials will start by taking targeted approaches to mitigate spread, such as a last call curfew for restaurants.
Town manager Rick Holman said the community has worked hard to salvage a successful summer this year and said he doesn’t want to see the county slide backwards.
He asked that people not participate in a traditional Halloween and instead look for alternatives. Breckenridge Tourism Office CEO and President Lucy Kay said that the tourism office has heard visitor testimonies say that they feel safer in Summit County than they do at home.
“That’s a tribute to everybody that is working hard, and let’s just keep that being the majority,” Kay said.
During the meeting Wineland explained the dial framework, pointing out that only one metric has to be out of compliance for more than two weeks for a county to be required to engage in a consultation process with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. That could then result in moving to a more restrictive level. The metrics are for: cumulative incidence of cases, average testing positivity and number of hospitalizations. Wineland said that their biggest issue has been gatherings.
Wineland also addressed COVID-19 fatigue. She encouraged people to continue with the county’s six commitments so that a successful ski season can happen and benefit the local economy.
In reference to the workplace, Wineland noted that some people who have tested positive have lost their jobs. She said the department needs industry partners to support employees and the possibility of losing employment undermines contact tracing. Wineland added that some employers are requiring a negative test to start a job, which is an inefficient use of testing resources.
The county has not seen the increase in hospitalizations that were seen early on in the pandemic because infections are mainly in the younger population right now, Wineland said, but noted that infection will eventually hit the vulnerable population if spread continues. As enforcement of gatherings were brought up, Holman said the town is prepared to step up the enforcement level.
“I think we have been doing warnings, and sometimes the only way to get someone’s attention is to take it a step further and issue a violation notice, and we’re prepared to do that, if that’s what it takes to get compliance and let people know that we’re serious about this,” Holman said.
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