COVID outbreak among workers at Iron Mountain Hot Springs closes cafe, but not full operation

John Stroud, Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Iron Mountain Hot Springs in Glenwood Springs
Special to the Daily |

The Sopris Cafe at Iron Mountain Hot Springs in Glenwood Springs has been closed since Tuesday after two workers there tested positive for COVID-19.

Iron Mountain Hot Springs showed up on the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environments list of active COVID-19 outbreaks in the state on Wednesday, after the cases were reported.

However, only the cafe was affected, and the hot springs business itself remained open, General Manager Aaron McCallister said.

After working with Garfield County Public Health on protocols to disinfect and sanitize the cafe area, plans are to reopen the food and beverage service operation on Friday, in time for the July 4th holiday weekend, McCallister said Thursday.

There have been no reports of any guests becoming ill in the days since the first case became known on June 26, he said.

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The first cafe worker to test positive had registered a fever of more than 100 degrees on June 23 during health screening that’s done routinely when employees show up for work, he said. That employee’s COVID-19 test came back positive on June 26.

The second worker to test positive, on June 29, reported experiencing symptoms, including headache and chills, in a questionnaire that’s also conducted as part of the daily screening, McCallister said.

That person was immediately tested and the result came back positive the same day, he said. Prior to showing symptoms, McCallister said the worker had attended a Black Lives Matter protest — while wearing a mask — outdoors Sunday evening in front of Glenwood Springs City Hall.

Other employees who had been in close contact with the workers were also sent home as a precaution, and one is to remain in self-quarantine for 14 days, public health officials confirmed.

“We shut down the cafe (on Tuesday) and threw away all the prepped food, and worked with public health to disinfect all the areas that would have been touched and to sanitize,” McCallister said. “We do feel our systems been really tight to protect our employees and guests.”

A full closure of the Hot Springs was discussed, he said, but after consultation with county health officials it was determined that step didn’t need to be taken.

“They didn’t offer any thoughts that we should close, and felt confident with the way we handled the situation,” he said.

Garfield County Public Health is conducting a contact investigation.

“The Hot Springs is following all recommended procedures, including Public Health recommendations for cleaning,” Godes said. “Employees that worked closely with these individuals are in quarantine.”

As for the information about attendance at a protest, she couldn’t elaborate on the date or type of protest. Various protests have taken place throughout Garfield County and the Roaring Fork Valley over the past month related to the Black Lives Matter movement and one on June 15 in opposition to the Glenwood Springs order requiring face masks to be worn in public to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“A complete contact tracing investigation is in process with all of the people this person was in contact with, and one person has been quarantined,” Godes said of the Hot Springs case. 

Resort management did review the safety protocols with employees, in order to bring “continued awareness of this pandemic that’s in front of us,” McCallister said.

That includes cleaning and disinfecting of the premises every two hours, in addition to the extra janitorial cleanings that have been added since the hot springs reopened on June 8.

All employees are required to wear face masks at all times, and guests must also wear face coverings at all times other than when they are in one of the pools, McCallister said.

“It is an educational thing with our guests, and we do get some people from out of state who don’t know about our local rules, or maybe they disagree with it,” he said.

Those rules will be emphasized this weekend with the expected increase in visitors due to the July 4th holiday, he said.

The cafe at the Iron Mountain resort is the second Garfield County restaurant to voluntarily close in the past week due to employees testing positive for COVID-19. White House Pizza in Carbondale closed on June 24 after two workers tested positive. It expects to reopen on July 9, according to a post on the restaurant’s website.

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