Town of Vail closes annual community meeting over COVID-19 concerns
Town meeting is the exception; other events still going on as planned — at least for now
Tuesday’s Vail community meeting was closed to the public. So far, that seems to be the only local event to be affected by the outbreak of COVID-19.
Town officials Tuesday afternoon decided to close the annual event to the public. According to a release, the step was taken out of “an abundance of caution.” Mayor Dave Chapin gave a state of the town address, and Town Manager Scott Robson also spoke. The event also honored Josef Staufer as this year’s winner of the Vail Trailblazer Award. High Five Access Media recorded the event, and it will be available both on local cable channel 5 and online.
Vail Town Manager Scott Robson said the decision to close the event to the public was fairly easy to make.
An older crowd
Robson noted that the community meeting generally draws an older crowd. The average age of attendees would probably rise as people came to honor Staufer, who is in his 80s.
So far, COVID-19 has tended to affect older people more seriously. Still, the third person in Eagle County to test positive is a man in his 30s. County public health officials made that announcement early Tuesday.
Also Tuesday, Gov. Jared Polis declared a state of emergency in Colorado.
In announcing that decision, Polis said he’s directed state agencies to pursue financial measures to help employees in the health, food and nursing home industries, as well as state workers who may stay home if they’re sick.
Polis added that he’s seeking more testing capacity to more quickly identify and isolate those who may be infected with the virus.
However, Polis stressed that Colorado is open for business during the outbreak.
That seems to be the current thinking in the Vail Valley, given that tourism is our economic lifeblood.
‘No need’ to cancel, so far
Robson said Vail is attempting to avoid cancellations of events. So far, he said, “the need hasn’t presented itself.”
People involved in the valley’s events echoed that theme.
Highline Sports and Entertainment produces a host of events in the valley, including Spring Back to Vail, scheduled for April 9 12. Highline managing partner James Deighan said his team is “working closely” with town, county, state and federal public health officials, and following guidelines they issue, particularly for outdoor events.
Deighan noted that the age group of Spring Back concert goers is quite a bit younger than the average age at the community meeting.
Still, he said, anyone feeling sick that weekend is being urged not to attend.
Asking people to stay home if they’re sick has become a common message as COVID-19 spreads through the country.
The Vail Valley Foundation operates the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail and owns the Vilar Center for the Performing Arts in Beaver Creek. It also operates a variety of educational, sports and cultural programs.
At the moment, the Vilar Center is the hub for most of the Foundation’s cultural and music events.
In a statement on the Vilar Center’s home page, venue director Duncan Horner writes that the facility is “closely following” guidelines issued by public health officials.
No artists had canceled appearances as of March 10, the statement reads. The center is also urging those who might be sick to stay home. Unused performance tickets can be exchanged for tickets to other events.
The statement also provides information on the Vilar Center’s attempts to keep the theater clean. That includes “using hospital-grade JW 04331 Virexll disinfectant cleaner to sanitize doorknobs, door handles, handrails, and all armrests and seatbacks daily.” In addition, employees are sanitizing countertops at concession stands, the box office and other hard surfaces.
There’s plenty of cleaning going on in Vail, too.
Robson said public restrooms in town-owned facilities are being cleaned “five or six times a day.” Buses, which are usually cleaned at the end of the day, are being cleaned during daytime hours as well, he added.
But, Robson said, the frequency of cleaning isn’t much more than normal.
“We were already cleaning to a high standard,” Robson said.
That’s part of what Robson called “impressive plans of action” for town departments. “Our preparedness is very high,” he added.
Tom Boyd, the Vail Valley Foundation’s director of public relations and the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, said he’s been impressed with the level of information and cooperation he’s seen locally.
“I’m very proud of our county,” Boyd said. “There’s tremendous unity in the county right now.”
While there haven’t been any local event cancelations to date — with the exception of Tuesday’s event in Vail — Boyd noted that everyone he talks with is prepared.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” Boyd said. “That why as an organization and community we need to be prepared for any number of eventualities, and to take swift action.”
Boyd added that’s the case with virtually every organization he’s been in contact with.
“Everybody’s communicating in a calm way. I like that about our community,” Boyd said.
For those with questions about COVID-19, call the CO HELP Hotline at 1-877-462-2911. For local updates, visit http://www.ECEmergency.org.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-748-2930.