As the county celebrates the 4th of July, Chaffee County Public Health (CCPH) has provided an update on the state’s next stage of reopening from the coronavirus known as COVID-19, called Protect Our Neighbors (PON). At the moment, CCPH has extended its public health order through midnight on August 4th.
On June 30th, Governor Polis, along with Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), Jill Hunsaker Ryan, and representatives of local public health agencies introduced Protect Our Neighbors (PON). This is the next phase of reopening from COVID-19.
Only the overview of Protect Our Neighbors is being introduced at this time — the state isn’t proceeding into this stage yet, due to the surging COVID-19 cases in surrounding states. County applications will open this coming week but will undergo a thorough review before any community is approved to enter this phase.
The state is announcing the Protect Our Neighbors phase now to allow communities time to understand the specific scientific criteria for certification and develop plans to meet the needs of their communities.
The application process for Protect Our Neighbors opens July 6. There are specific criteria that enable a community to be certified for this status. The specific metrics for each, as well as the complete framework for Protect Our Neighbors, are fully explained on the new web page.
More information about the application process and available grant funding will be provided on the website the week of July 6. Communities that can demonstrate strong public health and health care systems, paired with low virus levels, will be allowed to move forward, taking more control over their reopening plans.
In order to reopen to this greater extent, communities must have:
- Low virus prevalence
- Health care capacity to handle a surge
- Strong public health capacity to contain outbreaks and surges locally, including the ability to test, track, and trace.
In order to qualify for Protect Our Neighbors, a county (or region) must do two things:
- Certify qualification according to the scientific metrics
- Submit a mitigation and containment plan on what the county or region will do if they fall out of compliance with any of the metrics. This containment plan must be accompanied by letters of support from local elected leaders including county commissioners and mayors, the hospitals that serve that community, law enforcement, county emergency management, local public health, and if applicable, tribes.
The certification process will begin this coming week.
At this time, CCPH and local leaders have agreed to see what the impact of the 4th of July festivities and other early summer events have on our COVID-19 landscape before moving forward.
Health and safety must be prioritized in this sensitive environment, and it is clear that other states that have not taken COVID-19 seriously, are experiencing catastrophic surges in the virus. Currently, CCPH is working on building greater capacity for contact tracing and community testing in preparation for a local surge in cases and outbreaks.
“Before considering any additional lifted restrictions, we must continue to maintain a stable COVID-19 environment as well as secure resources and create plans to manage and mitigate COVID-19 and its impact on our public health and healthcare system,” said Director of Chaffee County Public Health Andrea Carlstrom. “While we have been extremely fortunate in Chaffee County so far, with the lifting of restrictions and the increase of tourism and visitors, we must remain vigilant in following the public health prevention measures that we have been educating and informing our community about for the past several months. It is up to each and every one of us to protect our amazing county.”
CCPH is hearing about an increase of visitors presenting to test sites with symptoms upon coming to the county. Travel is the common denominator found in CCPH’s COVID-19 positive exposure notification (patient investigation and contact tracing) process. That travel includes travel both into and out of the county.
It is imperative that we as a county follow the public health requirements and strategies to protect our community, especially those who are most vulnerable. CCPH has equipped our business community with support and the resources to help locals and visitors alike to curb the spread of the virus.
According to Carlstrom, CCPH hopes that those symptomatic visitors understand and follow the county’s isolation and quarantine requirements while test results are confirmed. When possible, visitors as requested to return home when they feel symptomatic or have concerns.
With the COVID-19 situation in many neighboring states, the State of Colorado has amended its Public Health order; bars are closed for in-person service, but they may sell take-out alcohol. Bars that serve food can function as a restaurant IF — and only IF — they maintain 6 ft distancing, seat parties, and there is no mingling. CCPH has been working with venues to determine if this is feasible.
CCPH is urging visitors to Chaffee County, to take the pledge to:
Maintain a 6 ft distance
Wash your hands often
Cover your face in public
Stay home if sick
Get tested immediately if symptomatic or came into contact with someone who tested positive