Public health works with ski areas on quarantine and isolation plans for the upcoming ski season
FRISCO — As ski season rapidly approaches, local ski areas have gradually released some details on how operations will work this year. Public health is working on systems for managing outbreaks and imposing quarantine and isolation protocols in Summit County with winter approaching and several local ski areas planning to offer employee housing this season.
Brian Bovaird, Summit County director of emergency management, explained that he is currently working to identify how quarantine and isolation needs might be different once the ski season starts compared to what needs have been since the pandemic began. He added that while he is covering the topic broadly, employee housing is a huge piece of the puzzle.
“There’s so many different factors or circumstances that could lead to public health having to do a quarantine and isolation order,” Bovaird said.
When working with the local population, Bovaird said it is ideal if people can quarantine and isolate in their normal environment. However, if living situations do not permit this, public health can provide temporary housing for the person or people who need to isolate.
For visitors, Bovaird said public health has been lucky this summer. Positive cases or cases under investigation have had access to a vehicle so the person can drive home and Summit County public health can coordinate with the local office of the case.
This ski season might bring different situations, as people may not be able to drive home due to distance, especially in the case of international visitors. Bovaird said public health would provide temporary housing for these visitors. As the ski areas hire seasonal employees and ramp up for opening, Bovaird said public health has been working with the areas on their ski season plans, including consideration for employees.
“We know that if the ski season runs for the duration of the ski season and COVID is still here, it’s not a question of if any employees will get COVID — statistically we know that some will — and so we’re working with the resorts to have them help us out and share some of the burden as well and anticipate that need and leave some employee housing available for that specific purpose,” Bovaird said.
As far as number of employees per unit go, Bovaird said this is mostly up to the ski areas. He noted that public health is meeting with the ski areas weekly to hash out details. While a plan hasn’t been finalized, public health is requesting that ski areas have a few extra units set aside in housing complexes so that employees can isolate as needed. So far, Bovaird said public health doesn’t seem to have received any pushback on this idea.
“Obviously they have a vested interest in having an efficient plan in place because if the virus spreads like wildfire through an employee housing complex then they don’t have any employees,” Boviard said. “So it’s a mutual interest.”
To begin the ski season, public health will have six housing units available for isolation. Since the beginning of the pandemic, public health has sheltered approximately 15 groups in need of housing for isolation, Bovaird said. In total, public health has issued 612 quarantine letters and 365 isolation letters. Isolation letters correlate with a positive or suspected case, whereas quarantine letters correlate with a certain level of probable exposure and may be issued as people await test results.
Since the first case in the state was reported at Keystone Resort in March, Bovaird said public health has come a long way in terms of contact tracing. He said public health no longer publicly reports on any individual case, but publicly reports anytime there is an outbreak, which is defined as involving three or more people.
Contact tracing is the most intricate piece of the puzzle, Bovaird said, which the county has hired people to help out with. Bovaird said public health has put protocols in place for multiple ski area scenarios — a person riding on a chairlift after a positive case, for example — and is attempting to prevent widespread confusion about exposure.
“There could be someone who is symptomatic or positive in that congregate setting of a ski area, but the exposure might be very limited due to the circumstances,” Bovaird said.
When Vail Resorts announced their operating plans for the 2020-21 ski season on Aug. 27, Breckenridge Ski Resort spokeswoman Sara Lococo said in an email that the resorts will continue to offer employee housing with safety protocols in place. She added that the resorts will follow local regulations regarding employee housing and will implement “unique” health and safety protocols for anyone living in resort facilities.
“As the season approaches, our resorts will communicate additional details, guidelines, as well as any changes with our employees,” Lococo said in an email.
On Sunday, Sept. 6, Lococo said there are no changes or updates to these plans.
Copper Mountain Resort spokeswoman Olivia Butrymovich said in an email that the resort is currently offering employee housing and plans to continue to do so, but did not share any additional details.
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