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Elisa Livengood has the at-times daunting task of being the public face of state and local authority in Custer County during the COVID-19 epidemic. As Public Health Director, it is her responsibility to implement the state’s public health orders.

Westcliffe, CO. Image by Coloradoguy.

“First thing I do (on a typical day) is check with my public health team,” she says, “then go to EOC (the Emergency Operations Center). We have what we call “battle rhythm” – a briefing in the morning with incident command, and then one day maybe a policy group meeting, the next a stakeholder meeting.”

Incident command, in this case, is Livengood and Meredith Nichols, director of Custer County’s Office of Emergency Management. Livengood differentiates between members of the policy group, which include elected officials such as the Board of Health and the sheriff, and stakeholders such as the fire department, and the Chamber of Commerce: “these are the people who are affected by the decisions that we make, but not voting on our actions.”

“I also deal with a lot of phone calls,” Livengood said. “Helping people figure out whether they need to be seen by a medical provider, get tested, get someone else tested, or go into self-quarantine.

“We have had only two cases testing positive so far. We don’t have anyone testing currently, but we do have tests [available] now, which is huge.”

Finally, Livengood puts out a bulletin that goes out to the media: “different things: case count, pending tests, a little bite of information for the day – why you should wear a mask, for example.

“We have meetings all the time with local public health officials,” Livengood concluded, on the question of when the state will allow counties to “open up for business” again.

“There will be a phased approach. The nice thing about a phased approach is that it’s not one size fits all – in other words, if the community’s case count is low, it will be allowed more liberties than communities where numbers are still escalating. If case counts start to go up, restrictions will be reimposed.

“It’s a marathon, and it’s going to go on for some time.”