Polis: Ski resorts working to create ‘social distance’ between groups of skiers
Wide ranging press conference focuses on need to protect state's 'most vulnerable'
During a question and answer period during Friday morning’s news conference, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said ski companies are working to keep the same groups on gondola cars and chairlifts in order to create a form of “social distancing.”
Polis said people traveling together are essentially one risk group. Not mixing groups is a way to cut down on the possible spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“We are indeed following this policy to ensure the health and comfort of our guests,” Vail Resorts Senior Communications Specialist Hannah Dixon wrote in an email.
Enjoying the outdoors while slowing down coronavirus spread
As state and local officials are working to limit the spread of the virus, Polis added that outdoor recreation is a “wonderful thing to do,” whether individually or as a family.
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Social distancing is the next step in trying to slow the progress of the virus through the population. State officials have ordered a ban on gatherings of 250 people or more if those people can’t be at least six feet apart from one another.
Counties, including Eagle, have issued orders banning groups of 50 or more.
With all that, Polis acknowledged that many, and perhaps most, state residents will get the virus. Current action is intended to slow the spread to avoid overwhelming the state’s medical facilities.
Testing is key to that effort, Polis said, noting that Colorado accounts for roughly 10% of COVID-19 tests administered in the U.S.
About 650 tests were administered Thursday at a drive-up facility at the former Lowry Air Force Base. Drive-up testing there was canceled Friday due to inclement weather. Pitkin County has also established a drive-up testing site, Polis said.
While testing is expanding, it still takes time to receive results. Polis said anyone with cold and flu symptoms should self-isolate until they can be tested and receive results.
The majority of those tested will come back negative for COVID-19. Those people can return to work when their symptoms subside, a matter of a few days.
Those who test positive must self-isolate for 14 days.
Polis acknowledged the difficulty in staying home for two weeks, but said it’s essential to prevent the spread of the disease, especially to the state’s “vulnerable” residents — those age 60 or older, or people dealing with chronic health issues including asthma, high blood pressure and diabetes.
There’s a “desperate need” to protect those people, Polis said.
“If you test positive, you’re a threat,” Polis said. But, he added, roughly 80% of those who do test positive recover on their own.
Eagle, Pitkin counties classified as “hot spots”
At this point, state officials and the private sector are working “around the clock” to scale up testing, Polis said. While roughly 1,500 people have been tested so far in Colorado, “that’s far from enough,” he said.
Beyond finding people with the virus, Polis said testing will also provide needed data.
So far, that testing has discovered a “limited” community spread of the virus, meaning it’s being transmitted in the general population.
And, he added, Eagle and Pitkin counties are being classified as “hot spots” for the virus.
“This will be an enormous drain on our systems,” Polis said. To help bolster health care providers, the state has eased licensure requirements for people who hold medical licenses from other states. Paramedics, students and others are being authorized to perform testing and clinical work, and the Colorado National Guard has been mobilized, with roughly a dozen medics available to help other medical providers.
As he did in a March 11 press conference, Polis acknowledged that the outbreak of COVID-19 will almost certainly get worse before it gets better.
“We’ve faced tough times before, and we’ll face tough times again,” Polis said. “We’re going to get through this together.”
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In the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a number of people decided they’d had enough of city life, and the Vail Valley gained some new residents. The same may be true in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.