Summit County ski resorts provide sick pay, isolation housing, food and other benefits to quarantined and isolated workers

Employees work on the mountain on opening day at Breckenridge Ski Resort on Nov. 13. Public health has reported two outbreaks among employees this season, including one in adult ski school and one among ticket scanners.
Photo by Liz Copan / Studio Copan

Several outbreaks have been reported among ski area employees in the first weeks of ski season, including one at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area and two each at Keystone Resort and Breckenridge Ski Resort. All of the outbreaks were initially reported by public health officials as two cases each.

In their state-approved operation plans for the season, each ski resort was required to address plans for isolating and quarantining employees who are sick or exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace, including sending the employee home and identifying other employees who might have been exposed.

But for workers who live in employee housing, the process is a bit more complicated.

Summit County’s Public Health Department spokesperson Nicole Valentine wrote in an email that the plans included setting aside employee housing units to be used for quarantine and isolation periods. Plans at all four Summit County ski areas — A-Basin, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain Resort and Keystone — include required pre-shift or daily health screenings.

A-Basin Vice President of Operations Peggy Hiller explained the ski area’s procedure for what happens if an employee develops symptoms of COVID-19 while at work:

“We would isolate them for some quick questions regarding other employees they may have been in contact with that day, then send them home,” Hiller wrote in an email.

Hiller added that if the employee doesn’t have a vehicle to drive home, A-Basin has designated a vehicle with protective shielding for the driver to transport the employee. She said A-Basin offers food assistance for quarantined employees. As far as sick pay, employees accrue paid time off but also have access to paid leave through the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act. And starting in January, Colorado will begin mandating sick pay, Hiller said.

If someone tests positive for COVID-19 and has roommates in employee housing, they would be moved to an isolation unit. A-Basin has 31 beds in employee housing and has set aside one two-bedroom unit with two beds for isolation housing. The ski area’s operation plan notes that employee housing is limited to one employee per bedroom.

At Breckenridge and Keystone employee housing, recreational common areas are closed, facial coverings are required in hallways and common spaces, and there is a no-visitor policy, Keystone spokesperson Loryn Roberson wrote in an email.

Roberson said at least 5% of beds in employee housing are reserved for use by employees whom public health officials have directed to quarantine or isolate. Roberson said any employees who are experiencing symptoms are required to stay home.

“We offer COVID-19 emergency sick leave to our employees for a variety of reasons, including if they are excluded from work due to a confirmed positive test for COVID-19 or quarantine order, for example,” Roberson wrote.

Roberson also noted that the Vail Resorts properties provide information and direct quarantined or isolated employees to local resources for telehealth appointments, medication and grocery delivery.

Breckenridge spokesperson Sara Lococo added that if employees need further assistance with transportation or obtaining meals, they can request it from the resort.

Copper spokesperson Taylor Prather wrote in an email that any Copper employee who is exhibiting symptoms, awaiting test results, quarantining or isolating is covered under Copper’s COVID-19 sick pay policy. If an employee indicates any symptoms of COVID-19, exposure or states that they have tested positive during a symptoms screening, which is required prior to each shift, the employee is contacted by a third party medical professional to determine next steps before they can return to work, Prather wrote.

Copper’s operation plan states that quarantine rooms have been set aside in the event that an employee housing resident tests positive for the virus and that the resort’s human resources department will deliver food and other supplies to isolated and quarantined residents. The plan also notes that Copper has upgraded filters used in air-handling systems and has placed portable air-purification units around employee housing.

Copper, which had an outbreak of four people at The Edge employee housing facility in the spring, has not had a reported outbreak yet this season.

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