Top 5 stories on SummitDaily.com, week of May 17
Editor’s note: Stories in this list received the most page views on SummitDaily.com for the past week.
An outbreak of 18 cases of the novel coronavirus at the City Market in Breckenridge has left some employees feeling uneasy about their safety at work.
Summit County Public Health announced April 29 an initial outbreak of eight cases at the store and increased that number to 17 on May 7. On May 19, Summit County Nurse Manager Sara Lopez said another probable case had been identified.
Two people connected to the store shared their experiences with the Summit Daily News. One woman, who has family that works at the store, said workers are being told to not talk with anyone about what is happening at the store or they could lose their jobs.
“I think it’s very dangerous for the employees and for the community,” she said about the outbreak.
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A man who works at the store and has tested positive for the virus said the store managers have been great to him since he first received the test.
“They were really good about it,” he said. “For me being out of work for this long, I’ve been supported really well by Kroger.”
Two individuals were cited with reckless endangerment after triggering an avalanche that hit a roadway near the Eisenhower Tunnel in March.
On the afternoon of March 25, two men — identified as Tyler DeWitt of Silverthorne and Evan Hannibal of Vail — were backcountry snowboarding above the Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnels when they triggered a large avalanche that covered more than 400 feet of active roadway above the west portal of the tunnel.
The slide damaged a remote avalanche control unit, essentially a fixed gas chamber on the slope that can remote detonate during avalanche mitigation efforts, and eventually buried the Loop Road in up to 20 feet of debris. The Loop Road is a service road primarily used by the Colorado Department of Transportation but was open to the public at the time of the avalanche.
The men called 911 to report the avalanche and met law enforcement on the Loop Road after they finished descending.
No cars or individuals — including the snowboarders — were caught in the slide, though officials said the avalanche easily could have been deadly under different circumstances.
“We’re really lucky it didn’t injure or kill somebody,” said Ethan Greene, director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
Summit County government officially requested a variance from state restrictions imposed by the Colorado public health department to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic.
In the request sent to the state Friday, May 15, county officials specifically asked for permission to open hotel and short-term rental lodging as well as restaurant interiors for dining service at reduced capacity and with adherence to various safety protocols. If granted, the variance would last until May 26, when the current stay-at-home order expires, and can be renewed on an ongoing basis.
In order to meet the threshold required for a variance approval, a county must meet certain criteria as outlined under Road Map for Reopening guidelines published by the federal and state governments.
A COVID-19 outbreak has been reported among employees at Lowe’s in Silverthorne, marking the second documented coronavirus outbreak at a big-box store in Summit County.
There are three confirmed cases at Lowe’s, according to a news release from Summit County, and the outbreak is being investigated by the Summit County Public Health Department.
Summit County Public Health Director Amy Wineland said in the release that small outbreaks like this are “not unexpected” given the current circumstances. She added that containment measures are in place to control the spread of the virus. Public health officials were notified of one positive case at Lowe’s on April 27. This individual who tested positive was placed in isolation and all close contacts were asked to quarantine.
People who grew up at high elevations might be less susceptible to the novel coronavirus, according to a recent study of the virus’ impact in high altitude communities like Summit County.
The study, which was published by the “Respiratory Physiology and Neurobiology” journal, compared case data for the virus among communities in Bolivia, Tibet and Ecuador and found that cities and towns in higher elevations have reported fewer COVID-19 cases.
When the virus attacks a person’s lungs it causes hypoxia, a term used for oxygen deficiency in the body. Dr. Gustavo Zubieta-Calleja, director of the High Altitude Pulmonary and Pathology Institute in La Paz and one of the researchers on the study, said it’s similar to taking a person from sea level and putting them at the peak of Mount Everest. People who live at high altitude develop a tolerance to hypoxia and this may help them fight the virus, he said.
However, some doctors are skeptical of studies like this one, because there is still so much researchers don’t know about the virus.
Dr. Erik Swenson, a pulmonologist from the University of Washington, said the study shouldn’t change how people live their lives in the pandemic.
“It could be true, but they don’t have the information to really tease out whether this is hypoxia that is living at these altitudes or is it a whole host of other factors that are relevant to those populations,” he said.
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