Directive for Vail employees to leave, if able, is coming from Eagle County

County manager says while temporary employees are welcome here, they may be safer elsewhere

Vail employees leave work on Saturday, March 14, after receiving word the resort would not reopen on Sunday. On Tuesday, workers in town-owned and Vail Resorts-owned employee housing were told to leave if they could. Eagle County confirmed Wednesday that request is consistent with the county's direction.
John LaConte |

Telling employees “counties are issuing direction for all employees to leave who are able,” Vail Resorts has seen a large exodus from their properties in recent days.

Eagle County Public Health confirmed Wednesday that direction has indeed been issued by Eagle County asking Vail Resorts employees to leave employee housing.

“This does include asking seasonal employees to transition back to their place of primary residence if they can do so,” said Heath Harmon with Eagle County Public Health.

Vail Resorts employees who had been offered summer jobs and were planning to stay are also being asked to leave.

The local health department also issued recommendations Tuesday asking Eagle County permanent residents to stay home, if possible, until April 16.

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What’s the meaning of home?

County Manager Jeff Shroll acknowledged that this may be a moment that appears to define just how welcome temporary employees really are in Eagle County.

“Yes you’re part of our community, yes you’re part of the economic engine that makes this valley go,” Shroll said. “You may be safer and wiser to go back to your place of origin because we have a pretty significant spread issue going on up here, but if you can’t we’re going to treat you just like we treat the county manager.”

In a letter to employees on Wednesday, Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz said medical resources in the communities Vail Resorts operates in need to be focused on the challenge ahead.

“It is in your best interest, and in the best interest of the community, for those who can return home to do so as soon as possible,” Katz told employees. “We want everyone to be in the right place to get the best support.”

Shroll said he agreed with most of what Katz had to say.

“We’re not kicking anybody out, but if you have a permanent place of residency, you should probably go back there,” Shroll said. “That probably is a better place to be than where Eagle County is, as it has turned to be a pretty significant disease transporting place.”

Infrastructure working properly

In his Wednesday letter to employees, Katz also said transportation options are becoming limited, and community infrastructure is shutting down.

Shroll said this is not the case in Eagle County.

“All of our infrastructure — water, sewer, wastewater, broadband, power, Holy Cross, Xcell, gas — all of those places are not affected by any of the things we have issued as public health orders — because our primary goal is to protect our own permanent residents here,” Shroll said.

Shroll added that the county’s bus system is currently operating on a full schedule, free of charge.

The town of Vail suspended bus services on Wednesday.

“We want to help take the burden off the county’s strained medical resources and reduced transportation options, in addition to getting our employees out of dense housing, which increases risk of exposure,” said Ryan Huff with Vail Resorts.

Shroll said he viewed the dense housing in Vail as a similar situation to universities, which are also telling students to leave.

“That’s probably not the safest for social distancing,” Shroll said. “This is not the best time to be sharing kitchens and bathrooms … but if there are seasonal employees who can’t get home for a variety of reasons, maybe wherever they’re from their borders are closed, we’ll find some accommodation for them.”

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