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That Chaffee County (and indeed the state of Colorado) are in a COVID surge is no secret, although there remain some who refuse to accept facts. The Chaffee County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) and administration are choosing to act in a precautionary manner so as to not contribute to the strain on the local healthcare system. That decision means the county will shift back to primarily virtual meetings and the wearing of facemasks in county facilities.

Chaffee County Commissioners Keith Baker, Greg Felt and Rusty Granzella during a pre-pandemic meeting. Due to the recent surge in COVID cases, the BoCC agreed as of Nov. 9 to move to primarily virtual meetings and facemasks. Photo by Jan Wondra.

With the number of positive COVID-19 cases continuing to rise across the community and increasing strain on the healthcare system across the state, the county is placing additional emphasis on precautions to reduce in-person exposure. This includes requesting that people use virtual platforms for public meeting participation as much as possible and establishing an expectation that all people wear masks when in county facilities and at county-convened meetings and events, regardless of vaccination status.

The county has relied on the Zoom system, a web-based streaming video with call-in number available to anyone with internet and/or phone access, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

When COVID case rates were waning in early summer 2021, the county officially fully reopened its facilities to in-person operations for the public and returned to hybrid public meetings that included in-person participation.

In recent weeks as COVID-19 cases have spiked, the county is again adopting greater methods of prevention by reducing in-person public convenings and reinforcing masking indoors. During their Nov. 9 meeting, the BoCC shared a consensus opinion that additional precautions are the right measure at this time in light of the surging case numbers, and that virtual meetings are an effective tool for public engagement.

Just on Nov. 9, a recent high of 36 positive COVID county cases were identified in a single day. More than 220 positive cases have been reported in the county in the past 14 days.

“As I monitor the local COVID data and look at the increasingly concerning situation in our community, I feel we need to again adapt how we’re dealing with it,” said Commissioner Greg Felt. “I am concerned about us having large public meetings in somewhat confined spaces. Over the past year and a half, we’ve made the virtual platform work very well for public meetings and at this point, remote participation is a very effective way for the public to engage.”

Commissioner Keith Baker reiterated that virtual participation via Zoom has become instrumental in public meetings engagement, “We want to truly encourage people to participate remotely and instill high confidence that remote participation is just as valuable as in-person.”

“Zoom participation is often more effective…You absolutely have our focused attention through Zoom,” added Felt. “Remote participation is not a second class way to contribute; it’s very functional.”

The county’s current approach to public meetings mirrors the recent message from Chaffee County Public Health that virtual platforms are strongly recommended when meetings and events must take place indoors and masking indoors in public spaces is requested of all people. County leadership will continue to monitor the local COVID situation and readjust precautions as able and necessary.

Zoom links to the county public meetings are posted within the individual meeting notices on the calendar found at www.chaffeecounty.org/. The next BoCC meeting on Tuesday, November 16, will be available at https://zoom.us/j/109079543, starting at 9:00 a.m.

Anyone with questions on virtual participation in public meetings or who feels they need assistance with accessing Zoom is encouraged to reach out to the administrative office at 719-539-2218 or email chaffeeadmin@chaffeecounty.org for support.