| SummitDaily.com

Summit County health officials expect mobile testing to reshape the fight against coronavirus

Medical supplies for COVID-19 testing are pictured March 30 at the Summit Community Care Clinic in Frisco. Summit County has hired a private company to conduct door-to-door testing in the community.
Liz Copan / ecopan@summitdaily.com

DILLON — Public Health officials are hoping that the county’s expanded testing capabilities will help them better understand the spread of the new coronavirus in the area and what steps need to be taken to intervene.

This week, the county announced contracts with Stadium Medical and Quest Diagnostics to provide a new mobile COVID-19 virus testing service for residents. The service went into effect Monday, with a Stadium Medical team visiting residents at their homes to administer the tests.

As testing criteria opens up to more members of the community, the number of known positive cases in the area is likely to jump, as well.

“With more testing, we’re going to be seeing more cases,” said Sara Lopez, nurse manager with the county’s public health department. “How dramatic that will be will depend on the volume of testing, but I would expect that to be increasing. It’s reflective of the virus’ presence in the community, and the current illness we’re seeing.”

The mobile testing unit also should allow public health officials and health care workers to act more efficiently when positive cases are identified. The county is estimating the Stadium Medical team could conduct about 15 tests a day — that compares with 122 total tests run since early March — depending on factors like drive time and physician referrals. Lopez also said there would be considerations to bring in a second team if demand continues to rise.

And speed is vital for an effective response. While the turnaround times for the county’s tests had ballooned to over a week in some cases, officials are hopeful that with new lab testing through Quest Diagnostics — which also is providing the county with additional test kits — the turnaround time will come back down to two or three days.

“We have a surveillance team that’s calling people when tests are pending and when we get positive results,” Lopez said. “They’re identifying high-risk contacts and making notifications so people can make the best decisions on how to best self-monitor, quarantine and whatever else may be appropriate.

“And there’s so much value in administering tests where the result would make a clinically meaningful difference in the patient’s care. A test result that comes back seven days later doesn’t really benefit them much. So getting these test results back quicker will really help us tremendously.”

More on COVID-19
The latest Summit County news, how to protect yourself and local resources.

Expanded testing will continue only while test kits last. And while Lopez voiced optimism that the county could continue at its current testing capacity, she noted all jurisdictions are facing restrictions.

“We’re working in a resource-scarce environment,” she said.

For now, the county has opened up testing to an expanded number of referred patients, including those who are 65 years or older, patients with underlying health conditions, critical infrastructure workers and individuals with moderate symptoms.

According to Julie Sutor, the county’s director of communications, the county is paying for the at-home administering of tests but is expecting to be reimbursed for 75% of the cost by the federal government. Sutor said for those with insurance, there shouldn’t be any cost for the actual lab testing either.

“The system is catching up,” Lopez said. “We’re really looking forward to having this data. It really helps us do our work in the community. As the virus transmission starts to slow down because of closures and social distancing, I think getting this data will become even more valuable so we can trace the lines of the virus as it moves in the community and shut it down.”

A Stadium Medical team contracted by the county to conduct mobile COVID-19 testing.
Courtesy Julie Sutor, Summit County

Opinion: Silverthorne is resilient, looking to the future

The presence of COVID-19 in our community has caused an unprecedented challenge for each and every one of us in our daily lives. It feels like a lifetime ago that we went to work and school and carried on with our days in whatever manner we chose. The first case in Colorado was found here in Summit County on March 5, and our world hasn’t been the same since. In a few short weeks, our town’s and nation’s economies have paused to “do our part” to save lives and keep our health care providers from being overwhelmed.

We hear you. We understand the burden that this puts on our community — especially one dependent on tourism. The decisions that have been made at the town, county and state levels have not been easy ones. As town officials, we have not taken this crisis lightly, and we are committed to making the best decisions possible to not only save lives but to also save livelihoods.  

The town of Silverthorne is committed to being by your side through this crisis. Our state and federal governments are working on support and recovery plans to help citizens get through these tough times, and the town of Silverthorne is doing the same. As a first step, Silverthorne contributed $60,000 to the Family & Intercultural Resource Center to provide immediate emergency assistance to the nonprofit’s community programs for those in need. As town officials sort through community assistance options, know that we are planning for additional relief for our community.

As a town without a property tax that is driven by sales taxes, Silverthorne will reassess its priorities and adjust its plan with the new landscape that lies ahead. Rest assured that critical town services like law enforcement, water and sewer service, finance operations and snow removal will always continue without interruption, while town officials work to plan for the day when our doors are open and recovery begins.     

Our commitment to you comes with an ask that you do your part by participating in the requests that have been made by our county and state to protect one another with social distancing. Let’s do everything we can to stay healthy and keep our most vulnerable residents out of harm’s way. Check in with those who might need some help — and get outside! We all need that fresh mountain air.

Please help yourself, help your family, and help your neighbor. Let’s crush this virus together and get back to the life that we all know and love in our beloved mountain town. One day, we will celebrate our efforts at a First Friday — a sign that normalcy has returned in our valley. And we will know that we made it happen together.      

We look forward to brighter days ahead. 

Keystone, Breckenridge donate more than 13,000 pounds of fruits and veggies to local food banks

As ski areas and restaurants across Colorado were ordered to close, many donated their remaining food to employees and local food banks.

In Summit County, Breckenridge Ski Resort and Keystone Resort donated about 13,000 pounds of perishable food to the Family & Intercultural Resource Center and the Leadville Community Food Bank, including vegetables, fruits, dairy, juices and prepared salads.

On Monday, Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz also announced he would donate $100,000 each to the Family & Intercultural Resource Center and The Summit Foundation. 

June’s GoPro Mountain Games in Vail postponed to August

VAIL – The Vail Valley Foundation, which owns and operates the annual GoPro Mountain Games, announced Monday the postponement of the annual mountain sports, music and lifestyle event until Aug. 20-23.

The event had previously been scheduled for June 4-7 in Vail.

The GoPro Mountain Games will still take place in Vail and organizers say they will stay as true as possible to the original free-to-spectators, four-day, multi-sport festival format. 

“The mountain community is strong and resilient, and although these are difficult times, we are confident that we can get through this together,” said Dave Dressman, Vail Valley Foundation vice president of sales and event director, in a news release. “Although we are disappointed this beloved project cannot take place during its normal June time frame, we hope the exciting news of the postponement to August triggers optimism for our mountain community that there will come a time when we can come together to once again celebrate the incredible spirit of mountain lifestyle in Vail.”

Dressman and the Vail Valley Foundation stressed that the health and well-being of all Mountain Games participants, athletes, spectators, staff, sponsors and partners would be paramount in the decision-making process as organizers looked ahead to the new August dates.

The Vail Valley Foundation, the town of Vail, Vail Resorts, GoPro and other key Mountain Games partners will consult with public health officials to make a final go/no-go determination on the August dates by June 1 at the latest.  

“If we get to a point where the new August dates are not viable, and/or hosting of the event presents health risks to anyone we serve, then at that time we will announce a cancellation of the August event,” Dressman said. “We hope that doesn’t happen, and we will remain optimistic, but the health of our mountain community, staff and all of our attendees is priority No. 1 for us.”

Organizers said that GoPro Mountain Games partners, athletes and sponsors were extremely supportive of the decision.

“This event speaks so much to the heart and soul of our community, and we’re proud to partner with the Vail Valley Foundation, Vail Resorts and all our community businesses and partners to do all that we can to keep this event on the 2020 calendar if conditions allow,” said Vail Mayor Dave Chapin in the news release. “For now, we’re optimistic that we will be all together, outdoors, enjoying the GoPro Mountain Games in 2020 during these new August dates. These games will be an important component of our recovery, not only economically, but more importantly, will lift us all up emotionally to show our resiliency in working together as a community.” 

A late-summertime event

Organizers recognized that water levels are much lower in August than in June, and that whitewater events will be impacted by this change.

“Whitewater athletes are a creative bunch,” said the Vail Valley Foundation’s Mac Garnsey, co-director of the event, in the news release. “We are going to work with them, and all our sport specialists, to see how we can keep this edition of the GoPro Mountain Games as close to the original as possible, but there simply is not enough water in Homestake Creek and Gore Creek to hold the exact same whitewater events that we have in the past.”

Vail Valley Foundation staff are currently working on plans with sport specialists across all 12 disciplines to determine what changes need to be made to events like fishing, climbing, DockDogs, trail running, mountain and road biking, disc golf, yoga, and the GMC Ultimate Mountain Challenge. They are also having open and honest conversations with sponsors, local partners, the Town of Vail, Vail Resorts, and other officials to shape the event to be as similar to the original as possible.

Finding a way to ‘rock on’

Music, too, is a big part of the GoPro Mountain Games, with three nights of free music at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, a venue that is also managed by the Vail Valley Foundation.

The music lineup is likely to remain largely intact, and organizers are optimistic about bringing the originally-scheduled lineup to the Ford Amphitheater for the August dates, including Bluegrass Superjam, Deer Tick, Andy Frasco & the UN, and Twiddle & Mihali.

“Additionally, we will continue to program live music in various daytime locations with the help of numerous local musicians who have built what is a thriving Vail Valley music scene,” Dressman said.

Athlete registration information

Athlete registrations for the June event will continue to be honored, said Sarah Franke, Vail Valley Foundation vice president of marketing & operations.

Registration will be temporarily paused on mountaingames.com, however, until such time as organizers can confirm the exact new dates and times for each event.

“For years, the GoPro Mountain Games, always held in early June, has been a celebration of the arrival of summer and the mountain lifestyle that comes along with the new season. We believe this will still ring true, even in August, as all of us reflect on how much we cherish any moment we are fortunate enough to enjoy these beautiful mountains,” Franke said. 

Athletes who have already registered for the 2020 event will be contacted to inform them of any changes to their selected event(s). Existing registrants can come and compete in the August event, push their registration to 2021, or receive a full refund on registration fees. Those who wish to continue supporting the event, even though they may not be able to attend, will also have the option to donate their registration fees to the nonprofit Vail Valley Foundation that hosts the event each year.

Organizers said they would soon have a more complete picture of what the new competitions, formats, courses, rules, and prizes, and that they would be in touch with current and former athletes and spectators with up-to-date information as decisions are made.

“We thank everyone for their patience during these difficult times,” Franke said. “As we adjust from an event in early June to one in late August, some of our events will be exactly the same, some will alter slightly, and others will change more significantly. We look forward to sharing some of our fun and creative ideas with the GoPro Mountain Games community in the coming weeks.”

Learn more about upcoming changes and stay up-to-date at mountaingames.com

This story is from VailDaily.com

Forest Service approves Peak 7 fuels-reduction project

The U.S. Forest Service has approved the Peak 7 hazardous fuels reduction project as proposed, which would clear-cut 522 acres of forest around Peak 7, White Cloud, Golden Horseshoe and Blue River near Breckenridge.

A 400- to 600-foot “community protection zone” would be cut around each neighborhood in the Wildland Urban Interface, which is designated as having an elevated risk of wildfire.

The goal of the project is to protect firefighters and communities in these areas.

Summit Advocates for Victims of Assault sees ‘significant’ rise in domestic abuse amid shutdown

DILLON — As officials continue to urge residents across the state to stay at home to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, many living in violent or abusive situations are reaching out for help.

Lesley Mumford, executive director of Summit Advocates for Victims of Assault, said the group has seen a “significant” increase in new clients over the past month as a result of the coronavirus shutdown.

“We’ve all been ordered to quarantine ourselves and stay at home to prevent the spread,” Mumford said. “But home isn’t safe for everyone. There are a lot of people already living in situations where the most dangerous thing to them is the intimate partner they live with. We don’t have the breaks and respites from our partners we normally do — work or social activities — and those tensions can begin to rise with nowhere to go.”

Mumford said Advocates, a group that provides resources and services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, has seen more than 145 new clients this year, including at least 51 in March. For comparison, the group saw 73 new individuals seeking services in the same three-month period last year.

In March, the group has responded to at least 30 crisis intervention calls, wherein an advocate will respond in person to help transport someone to a shelter or accompany them to forensic nursing exams, law enforcement interviews and more. And more individuals are seeking help getting out of dangerous situations than ever before.

Over the past two weeks, Advocates has housed as many as 13 people at a time in the group’s safe shelters, including a number of children. In a more typical week, it’s usually two or three.

“To have that many people was remarkable for us,” Mumford said. “Of course, for those individuals, we’re also providing food and transportation assistance, because often people are coming to us with just what they were wearing in leaving a violent situation. We have to step up and provide all those other needs.”

Mumford emphasized that the organization has been up to the task. In addition to providing safe shelter, food, transportation and crisis intervention services, Advocates also offers emergency financial assistance and a 24/7 crisis hotline (970-668-3906) among other services.

Summit Advocates for Victims of Assault remains open during the COVID-19 crisis.
Liz Copan / ecopan@summitdaily.com

Despite the shutdown, Mumford said, the group also has continued all of its free legal programming, including providing attorneys to represent victims in matters like obtaining protections orders, child support, divorce, visa applications and more.

“We are offering everything we did before (the public health order),” Mumford said. “We’ve just found new ways to do it.”

While Advocates is considered an essential service for the county, it still has had to make some changes to the way it’s operating. The group does have staff at the office and responding to crisis interventions, though staff also have begun experimenting with new telehealth opportunities and making contingencies for another potential surge of people in need.

Resources

Advocates has enacted new measures inside its communal safe house to cut down on congregating as much as possible, including asking individuals and their families to stay in their rooms away from others and delivering prepared food to cut down on mingling in the cooking spaces. The space is also undergoing regular deep cleaning.

If the need does surpass the capacity at the shelter (about 11 beds), Advocates has been working with the Summit County Office of Emergency Management to ensure people won’t be turned away. Brian Bovaird, the county’s emergency management director, said Advocates would be able to access some of the county’s hotel rooms as part of a preestablished plan for “non-congregate” housing in mass sheltering incidents.

Mumford emphasized that all of Advocates’ services are confidential and don’t require law enforcement involvement. And despite the shutdown, they’re prepared to help anyone in need.

“We’re available 24/7, 365,” Mumford said. “If somebody isn’t certain, call. Our staff is ready, willing and able to serve. We’re more than happy to talk something through with an individual. All of our services are here. We’re in full swing.”

Summit Advocates for Victims of Assault remains open during the COVID-19 crisis.
Liz Copan / ecopan@summitdaily.com

Summit County reports 7 new coronavirus cases, 26 total

DILLON — Summit County reported seven additional positive cases of the new coronavirus Tuesday, bringing the county’s total to 26.

A total of 122 individuals have been tested in Summit County, according to the most recent update on the county’s novel coronavirus webpage. There have been 69 negative tests and 25 are still pending.

County spokesperson Julie Sutor said residents shouldn’t expect the number of positive, negative and pending tests to match up to the total number each day.

The county is including some untested but epidemiologically linked cases in the positive case count. Those are people who are exhibiting strong COVID-19 symptoms and had known close contact with someone who tested positive. Additionally, while pending cases will appear in the data of the county that tested an individual, that data will be transferred to the person’s county of residence once the results are returned — meaning Summit’s numbers will be impacted differently each day by residents being tested outside of the county and vice versa.

So far, there have been 28 hospitalizations since the first case. Hospitalizations represent all individuals who had severe COVID-19-like symptoms, including those whose tests are still pending or have come back negative.

By the numbers
Summit County
  • Positive: 26
  • Hospitalized: 28
  • Deaths: 0

Source: Summit County Public Health

Colorado
  • Positive: 2,627
  • Hospitalized: 414
  • Deaths: 51

Source: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

Updated at noon March 31.

While the county has expanded testing capabilities, officials still believe the number of positive results is well below the real spread of the illness in the community. On Friday, officials launched the Summit County Symptom Tracker to help officials better understand the possible scope of the virus in the county.

Opinion | Toby Babich: Colorado Highway 9 safety a top priority

  • Occupation: Breckenridge Resort Managers owner
  • Years in Summit County: 22 (1979-1989 and 2008-present) 
  • Civic involvement: Timberline Learning Center board member, Breckenridge Central Reservations board member, Breckenridge Resort Chamber/GoBreck board member, Breckenridge Marketing Advisory Committee member, Breckenridge Recreation Advisory Committee member, mayor of Blue River since 2017, Vacation Rental Management association president, former treasurer

I have been a resident of Blue River for 12 years and of Summit County for 22, including serving the last three years as mayor. I am very excited to be running again and am looking forward to serving the residents of Blue River as mayor. As I look forward at areas I would like to focus on moving into 2020, three very important issues that add to the quality of life here will be the priorities:

Colorado Highway 9 safety

We have recently sent a letter requesting the Colorado Department of Transportation and other assorted Colorado agencies take immediate measures to improves safety through our Highway 9 corridor, and we need to continue to develop safer passage through our “main street” for our wildlife, pedestrians, cyclists and local vehicle traffic.

Trail connectivity and open space acquisition

Our community is an active one, and trails in winter and summer are always a benefit in our local area. We are currently working on, through the trails committee, partnering with other open space departments to bring connectivity in Blue River, expanding our current trail network to make it more usable and enjoyable. Acquisition of strategic parcels of land and easements is key to this discussion, and we are well on our way to action. 

Comprehensive master plan

We will be dedicating some effort to gathering resident feedback and applying that to a comprehensive plan for our town, looking at what we all would like Blue River to be 10, 20, 30 years from now. As we sit in our trustee chairs and try to determine the best course of action, we often reference, “What would our residents want?” With a properly researched and developed comprehensive plan for the town, we are able to always make decisions that will ensure our future is preserved in accordance with the voice of our community. 

Toby Babich is running unopposed for mayor of Blue River.

The ski resort industry is hoping for federal relief from its $2 billion in coronavirus losses

Dave Byrd has spent the past two weeks dispelling the notion that ski areas won’t feel the pain of the coronavirus shutdown because they pulled the plug so late in the season.

“This is roiling everyone,” said the director of regulatory affairs for the National Ski Areas Association, which last week estimated the country’s 460 ski areas in 37 states could suffer $2 billion in losses stemming from the shutdown. “Ski areas did not dodge a bullet here.”

Byrd is corralling lawmakers in the Congressional Ski and Snowboard Caucus to amplify the resort industry’s voice. Just because the sudden shutdown of the ski season came late in the season does not mean the industry will emerge from the pandemic unscathed. 

The list of losses is long. And the industry is lined up hoping for federal assistance.

“We are working those levers in Congress. We don’t know what the actual shape of any relief might be but we are looking for economic assistance and we are willing to offer up some pretty big conditions on any aid we get,” Byrd said. He outlined an assurance that any aid directed toward the ski industry would go only for payroll and capital expenditure projects that largely employ local workers in ski communities. 

Read more via The Colorado Sun.

The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported news organization dedicated to covering the people, places and policies that matter in Colorado. Read more, sign up for free newsletters and subscribe at coloradosun.com.

Opinion | Kelly Finley: Diversity needed on Blue River board

Kelly Finley
Courtesy photo
  • Occupation: Summit High School counselor 
  • Years in Summit County: Eight, with seven of those in Blue River
  • Family: Married with two boys and two dogs
  • Civic involvement: Town of Blue River Citizen Advisory Committee founding member and current chairman, public educator for 20 years

My name is Kelly Finley, and I am running for the position of trustee for the town of Blue River board. I am an active member in not only the town of Blue River but also Summit County. I have been a public educator for 20 years and have always been passionate about service-oriented leadership. I am currently the chairman of the town of Blue River’s Citizen Advisory Committee, which has been integral in supporting the town by making recommendations to the board based on the needs and wants of our community. 

I feel strongly that the Blue River Board of Trustees should have a diverse representation of community members including all genders and ethnicities to reflect the diverse population that lives in Blue River. There currently is no female representation, and I would like that to change in the next round of board members.  

Other than seating all genders on the board, I have no agenda — hidden or otherwise — to pass through. I want to listen to the needs of our community and make fair and rational decisions on their behalf based on facts and needs. 

Kelly Finley is one of five candidates for three open seats on the Blue River Board of Trustees.