Top 5 most-read stories on SummitDaily.com, week of Nov. 29
Editor’s note: Stories in this list received the most page views on SummitDaily.com for the past week.
Anyone in Summit County can now get a test for the novel coronavirus, regardless of their situation.
Currently, Summit County has the capacity to administer around 1,000 tests per day through its three testing sites, Public Health Director Amy Wineland said at a virtual town hall event on Nov. 18. With this capacity, testing is now available to the entire community, regardless of whether they are insured or symptomatic.
The dramatic increase of testing capacity came as a result of a rising test positivity rate — the percentage of positive tests out of all tests — in Summit County. On Nov. 13, the county was reporting a positivity rate of 16.3%. Since then, the rate has dropped to 7.8% as of Saturday, Nov. 28, according to the state’s COVID-19 dial dashboard.
2. Masks up! Colorado ski resorts are moving ahead as state, counties and businesses restrict access
The lift operator in the maze at Vail Village’s Gondola One tilts his head back and hollers: “Masks up please!”
There are no unmasked skiers in the line, but maybe some masks have slipped below noses. It’s the second day of operations at Vail ski area — a busy Saturday — and skiers are filling the mountain through three entry points.
“The compliance I’m seeing is probably 75% and the ski area employees are very adamant. They are yelling at people who don’t have their mask up,” said longtime Vail skier Charlie Vogel, who skis just about every day. “I heard one employee yell ‘Put your mask up, save the season.’ That’s a good way to look at this.”
3. Why is this open but that closed? Summit County officials address discrepancies in regulations among industries
Many Summit County residents wonder why ski areas have been permitted to operate while restaurants have been closed to indoor dining. Others argue ski season must remain open in order to prioritize the economy and the mental health of ski town residents.
Summit County Environmental Health Manager Dan Hendershott cited risk factors for COVID-19 as differentiators between the industries, one of which happens primarily indoors during the winter. Those differentiators include duration of potential exposure, mask-wearing, ventilation and exclusion of symptomatic individuals.
Hendershott pointed out that the county wasn’t privy to conversations at the state level about what restrictions were set for each color on the COVID-19 dial, but he said the county has had more discretion over ski areas than a sector that is listed on the state’s dial framework, such as restaurants or retail. He said each activity and business poses a different risk for transmission of the virus, which is why restrictions are not consistent across the board.
Local law enforcement agencies have stepped up the enforcement of public health orders related to COVID-19, slowly shifting away from umbrella policies of education over prosecution as officials seek to combat soaring case numbers throughout the area.
Last month, Summit County was moved to level red on the state’s COVID-19 dial, and officials released an amended public health order to further tighten restrictions in hopes of avoiding another shutdown. But improving the community’s response to the novel coronavirus is ultimately tied to how well residents and visitors are willing to comply.
Conversations on the topic have ramped up between public health officials, law enforcement leaders and the district attorney’s office in recent weeks, and some officials believe the time has come to swap the carrot for the stick.
5. Transient workforce: How high turnover affects the workplace and the mental health of hourly wage workers
Plenty of Summit County’s seasonal workers come to the mountains to live the ski bum lifestyle for a winter or two before going on their way. But not everyone who ends up leaving necessarily wants to, and the transient nature of the county’s workforce takes a toll on the mental health of those working to set down roots in the community.
The pandemic hasn’t helped. The total workforce has decreased by about 23% from June to October, according to an economic impact survey conducted by the Summit Chamber of Commerce and the Summit Prosperity Initiative. Corry Mihm, project manager for the Prosperity Initiative, wrote in an email that much of the loss could be among seasonal workers.
In the ski industry, some people make a career out of their once-seasonal jobs by climbing the corporate ladder. But by design, a segment of the seasonal workforce leaves after a one or two years. Kelly Renoux, director of Employee Experience at Copper Mountain Resort, explained that turnover is part of the seasonal business. The resort rehires about one-third of its staff every season with the remaining two-thirds of job openings filled by new employees. For positions like lift operations, for example, Renoux said some turnover is desired because Copper wants people who are new and excited about the work. In positions like vehicle maintenance, however, the resort doesn’t want as much turnover.
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