Custer County, although small in population and relatively isolated, has not been immune to the COVID-19 epidemic sweeping through Colorado. As of this week, two County Commissioners, Jay Printz and Tom Flower, were still in self-quarantine, along with almost the entirety of county staff who work in the courthouse. A contractor who had been doing some work there on Monday, March 16, a man in his 50s, called the county that evening to say that he was exhibiting symptoms of the disease, and that he had been in close contact with someone else who had already tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.
Custer County Public Health Director Elisa Livengood issued this statement on March 26: “Currently in Custer County we have our EOC (Emergency Operations Center) set up and operational with coordinated response from Emergency Management and Public Health. We have 1 negative test, 1 probable case we are waiting on test results for, and 2 other cases being tested on Monday when tests will be available.”
According to an article in this week’s Wet Mountain Tribune, there had been an effort on the part of the county earlier in the week to move the Office of Emergency Management temporarily from the courthouse to the station building of the Wet Mountain Fire Protection District (WMFPD). However, the WMFPD Board of Directors conducted an emergency vote to veto this move, citing the risk of infection to the county’s firefighters from exposed persons at the OEM. Many of the WMFPD’s firefighters also serve as the West Custer County Hospital District’s EMTs and ambulance drivers.
The Hospital District’s medical clinic is still in operation with the following guidelines in place, per its website (https://custercountymedicalcenter.com/):
- Screening of Physical Therapy and Clinic patients at the entrances.
- Utilizing a room with an outside door so patients can be seen without entrance to the clinic, in their car or in the room, with limited access to the clinic.
- Initiating a telehealth program (which is a visual and auditory visit) where a patient can have a virtual meeting with their provider.
- Enhanced cleaning throughout the day in treatment areas, physical therapy and the waiting rooms. Staff are doing a thorough cleaning at the end of every day.
- Front office staff and clinical staff have been fitted for a special respirator mask (N95), In addition, all EMS personnel are being fitted for a special respirator mask (N95).
Other businesses in Westcliffe and Silver Cliff are hunkering down and either closing their doors to the public, or operating under curtailed hours.
The Jones Theater is closed until April 30, and the play that was to have been the start of its live theater season, The Vast Difference by Jeff Daniels, has had its opening postponed from May 8 to July 25.
Meanwhile, the Ezulwini Foundation, a local nonprofit, is setting up an emergency fund called the “COVID-19 Economic Support Program.” Starting Monday, March 30, Custer County residents who have been laid off or are otherwise affected by the COVID-19 shutdown can pick up a coupon for $150 per family, per week for food products at Loan A Ranger, 206 Main Street in Westcliffe.