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Judson Haims: Spring’s foreign substances are starting to wreak havoc

Summer is nearing and people throughout the community are itching to get outside. But beware — there are nefarious substances that have been lying dormant all winter and are now starting to blossom.

Allergy season is already underway this year and it is looking like it’s going to be a nasty one. As the sun starts to warm and melt the snow, pollens are starting to dry and the wind is going to disperse them everywhere. Allergy sufferers should be particularly aware: high winds in the valley will have you sneezing and may cause concerns with your throat and eyes. In some cases, respiratory problems may also develop.

Most people who suffer from allergies experience some of the worst symptoms as springtime occurs. Here in our valley, spring’s onset is usually just a few weeks away. However, with changing weather conditions and our early onset of warmer weather, spring has already sprung.

One of the best ways people can be proactive in mitigating daily and seasonal allergies is to be diligent about keeping the nasal cavity as clear as possible. Second to this may be starting to take allergy medication early in the season (like now) before symptoms become problematic. Once you start having symptoms, remedy often takes longer.

While many people may not like the idea of using a nasal wash, it should be noted that they can prove to be a very effective means to addressing allergies. Not only do nasal washes clean mucus from the nose (making medications more effective), but they also can reduce the impact of allergens and irritants. Additionally, nasal washes may help decrease infections by cleaning out bacteria and viruses from the nose.

Here in our mountain communities, some of the biggest culprits of allergies are aspen and cottonwood trees, sagebrush and ragweed, in addition to junipers and pine trees.

Treatments for common seasonal allergies

Should you choose to use a nasal wash, you can make your own saline rinse, or you can buy a commercially made product such as NeilMed. If you chose to make your own saline rinse and use a neti pot for delivery, please make sure you do it properly.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you should use distilled water to avoid bacterial contamination. DO NOT use tap or well water that has not been sterilized properly. In order to make your own saline rinse, you should boil water for at least three minutes. To make the rinse, mix one-half teaspoon noniodized salt and a pinch (small pinch) of baking soda in an 8-ounce glass of water. Used once or twice a day, they can help to keep seasonal allergies at bay.

There are other natural options

There are many natural allergy relief remedies you can try before using over-the-counter or prescribed medications. However, before trying any natural remedy, it may be very beneficial to modify your diet. Some of the best ingredients you can incorporate into your daily diet include leafy greens (spinach, watercress, kale, collard greens, romaine, and arugula), garlic, lemons and lemon water, and local honey (bee pollen).

Quercetin is a natural supplement that is known for its antioxidant activity and is naturally found in plant foods. It is a bioflavonoid that stabilizes the release of histamines and helps to naturally control allergy symptoms by suppressing inflammatory mediators. Research also shows that Quercetin helps the immune system, antiviral activity, and decrease pro-inflammatory cytokines (proteins that are produced by cells to regulate the body’s response to disease, infection, and immune responses).

D-Hist, a product made by Ortho Molecular, may be found at local pharmacies. If you cannot find it, contact the Vail Valley pharmacy in Edwards or look online. D-Hist is a natural and very effective supplement mix. Each capsule combines some of the most effective histamine-healing remedies such as quercetin, stinging nettles leaf, N-acetyl cysteine, bromelain and vitamin C. For people who get drowsy from traditional allergy medications, you may appreciate that this product does not cause drowsiness.

Over the Counter options

Should you not find relief from natural options, an over-the-counter option may be a nasal spray like Flonase. Flonase not only assists in reducing swelling, it also works to block the effects of substances that cause allergies. It does not reverse the effects of what is already going on so it is most effective when taken in advance of an allergy onset and should be used throughout the allergy season.

In the event every other option has not worked, there is always traditional products like Zyrtec, Claritin and Allegra.

Allergies are due to hypersensitivity of the immune system that causes the release of damaging histamines. If you want to help preventing allergic reactions, you need to be proactive in addition to limit your exposure to allergens.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Aspen, Basalt, and Carbondale. He is an advocate for our elderly and is available to answer questions. His contact information is www.visitingangels.com/comtns, 970-328-5526 or 970-328-5526.

Guest commentary: Climate delayers are climate deniers

Are you feeling a little more than pissed that so much said and written about climate change is about the problem but not the solution? I am. How big is the problem?

The International Panel on Climate Change Report, here’s a key section of the policymakers’ summary: “The report finds that limiting global warming to 1.5° Celsius would require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport and cities. Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide would need to fall by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching “net zero” around 2050. This means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing (carbon dioxide) from the air.” You can find the IPCC Report at www.ipcc.ch.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres believes we have one year to change course and get started.

“If we start today, when global emissions are still growing, the necessary rate is 10%. If we delay another decade, it will require us to cut emissions by 30% each year,” wrote David Wallace Wells in his New York Times best seller “The Uninhabitable Earth.”

In order to stop climate disaster, we need policy changes on world, federal, state and local levels. Here are 10 polices that should to be put in place to meet the call to action to a clean energy future for our children’s children:

1. Get rid of government handouts to the fossil fuel industry.

2. Give incentives to the renewable energy instead.

3. Start a works corps to build America’s renewables programs.

4. Enact a carbon tax to raise funds to invest in renewables and slow the growth of fossil fuels.

5. Stop future fossil-fuel development through banning drilling, fracking, etc.

6. Require utilities to produce all their electricity from zero-carbon sources — such as wind and solar.

7. Set energy efficiency standards for new homes and commercial buildings.

8. Curb methane emissions from oil-and-gas operations.

9. End the use of hydrofluorocarbons, powerful greenhouse gases used in air-conditioners, refrigerators and foams from the reduction in future emissions.

10. End endless wars for oil and profit and cut the 800 U.S. military bases and trillion-dollar-a-year budget by a third and redirect the spending to renewables, clean jobs, electric transportation and new research and innovation.

We are only 12 years away from locking in extreme warming. The IPCC report released last October had a huge impact on leaders around the world and ignited the Green New Deal. The report outlined how little time we have and how much destruction is expected over the next 50 to 100 years during our children’s and grandchildren’s lifetime.

It showed how global warming will be 50% worse if we strive to keep on tract of the 2 degrees Celsius goal of the Paris Climate Summit as opposed to 1.5 Celsius.

If we put sustained policy and options in place, we can avoid the crisis. We have the technology in place. Solar is 90% cheaper than it was 30 years ago. China as surpassed us in development and implementation. By 2050, 70% to 90% of our energy could come from renewables. In the next 10 years, countries like Norway will ban combustible engines.

We need 85% of electric to come from renewables by 2050. We can do this on just solar alone. This is an attainable goal. The oil and gas industry has spent nearly $2 billion dollars to stop climate solutions, buy off politicians and tell us that it’ll cost over $50 trillion dollars and millions of jobs to save their industries.

“We need $2 trillion to $3 trillion per year in investments. We spend money on fossil fuel energy and methane emitting technology now. The U.S. spends about $300 billion on renewables already. If we increase that by 15% each year for 12 years that’s $10.5 trillion dollars to fix the problem,” explained Jigar Shah, co-founder and president of Generate Capital, a resource revolution venture capital firm.

“There are now more jobs in renewable energy in the state of Pennsylvania than coal, natural gas, and oil combined,” said Bill Peduto, mayor of Pittsburgh. We have the evidence. If there’s going to be a Green New Deal, cities, counties and states need to adopt ways to become Carbon Neutral. One hundred-eight cities have adopted a commitment to Net Carbon by 2030 to2045. Your community can too. Climate justice is good for our economy, people and environment.

Start demanding our politicians, journalists, leaders and teachers on the strategies and tactics to get the problem solved. My kids will be 46 and 44 in 2050, when we need to be at zero carbon emissions as a planet to postpone long-term climate destruction.

Next month I turn 60. I don’t have hope, I have kids. Let’s work as a nation like our grandparents and great grandparents did during World War II to protect the destruction to our democracy, economy and planet.

Arn Menconi is a former Eagle County commissioner and ran for U.S. Senate and Congress.

Deeded Interest: Earning the commission

After near blizzard conditions and record snows in February and March, April has made way to sunshine, warmer temps, spring skiing and, down toward Basalt and Carbondale, sprouting daffodils and even an open patio or two.

And with that, the spring selling season has begun in earnest throughout the Roaring Fork Valley. All indications are we are off to a fast start.

Like the runoff, local market experts predict a torrential summer of buying and selling. Interest rates are down again. The DOW, oil prices and job numbers are up, and with 2020 uncertain, it seems to feel like the time to pounce. After all, we’ve been on a tear around here since 2015 and it can’t go on forever.

And so it goes, a slew of new listings coming to market, emerging from the dregs of winter, ready for their day in the sun. Clean the windows, aerate, weed and feed the lawn, power wash the drive, call the broker and get that sign in the yard before the spring tour of homes begins at the end of the month. Any ’ol broker will do, just take a photo or two, get ’er in the MLS, on the inter-web and it’s sure to sell before the Fourth of July.

If you’ve followed my scribblings on this subject over the years, you know I’ve attempted to drive home the notion of pricing correctly from the start, rather than looking at what the house next door sold for and thinking yours is better and worth more money. I’ve also tried to warn the faint of heart that this process can be akin to a colonoscopy without Propofol if you don’t plan, prepare and consider carefully who you are hiring to help you through the process.

At a recent sales meeting, the theme was, in essence, a clarion call to all of us that choose to captain these treacherous waters for our clients. The challenge was this: What are you doing to really earn your commission?

It’s a question that all of us should ask ourselves. What value do we ultimately bring to the table? What services do we provide? How do we differentiate what we do from the crowded field of competitors? The general public already thinks our job is easy and, frankly, unnecessary. Why even hire a broker when Zillow is just a swipe away?

For those of us who take pride as full-time real estate professionals, the answer is easy. Communicating what we bring to the table for our clients can be much more difficult. Any broker can tell you to tidy up around the house and yard, get rid of the “clutter” and take your family portrait off the wall. The question I’m asking is what percentage of experienced professionals might suggest you do less rather than more and actually take the bull by the horns on their own, taking the onus off you? Hint: The 80/20 rule applies here.

So what expectations should buyers and sellers have of their broker? Examples include:

• The ability to read and interpret a title commitment

• Order the correct improvement survey (ILC or ISP)

• Knowing the difference between water rights and a well permit

• Can suggest a competent lawyer, architect or builder

• Uses an inspector who can find material defects

• Understands the local zoning and building codes

• Knows the difference between an engineering and soils report

• Can suggest a land-use planner and/or builders rep

• Discover and present off-market opportunities

• Can tell you what a home sold for, who designed it, who built it and when

• Can provide a broker price opinion and competitive market analysis

Not every broker, and certainly not a new one or one who works part-time, will have command of this subject matter. No matter your real opinion of our chosen profession, it’s in your best interest to choose an expert who can guide you to the closing table, and knows and understands all the steps required to get there.

Get your money’s worth and make sure the broker you tap to do the work doesn’t drive you around in circles but actually earns his or her paycheck through their experience, hard work and careful diligence.

Scott Bayens (GRI, ABR, CNE) is a realtor with Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s International Realty with more than a decade of experience with buyers, sellers and investors. He can be reached at scott.bayens@sir.com.

Kerry Donovan: Coloradans need better retirement-plan options

Colorado’s workforce is innovating, but the structures to support it aren’t — and taxpayers are about to pay the price of our state’s growing retirement crisis.

Almost half of private-sector workers in Colorado don’t have access to a retirement savings program at work. We all want to live out our golden years with peace, security and independence. But without better opportunities to save, those ideals will be out of reach for many.

Coloradans need a tool that will expand access to professionally managed and low-fee retirement plans. That’s why I’m sponsoring Senate Bill 173, to investigate different programs that could help today’s workers save.

This legislation would require a study and a thorough analysis of the options the state could adopt to ensure people are able to save for their futures. The options include keeping the status quo, a marketplace exchange, more financial education and the creation of the Colorado Secure Savings Plan.

Similar to a program rolled out in Oregon, the Colorado Secure Savings Plan would automatically enroll employees in a plan offered through a public-private partnership in coordination with the state, which deducts a certain percentage out of their wages to put toward retirement. This model is proven: Research shows people are 15 times more likely to save for retirement if they have a plan that makes automatic deductions from their paychecks. Employees would always have the option to raise or lower how much they save every month, or opt out entirely.

The Colorado Secure Savings Plan would be tied to the person, rather than their job, including contractors, self-employed Coloradans, or those with multiple jobs. They could take this plan from job to job without the hassle of having to roll one account into another.

Workers aren’t the only ones who win if the state makes it easier to save. It would mean Colorado’s small businesses could better compete for top talent, deepening their foothold in our state’s economy, instead of worrying about their ability to offer a 401(k) or IRA.

Even if you’re not a business owner or a worker in need of a retirement plan, more savings mean taxpayers like you save millions of dollars over the years. When people retire without sufficient savings, they’re often forced to rely on services like food stamps and Medicaid. In fact, economists in Utah estimated that if retirees had been able to increase their savings by 10 percent, or about $14,000 on average, taxpayers could have saved $194 million.

We all know that “having a job” looks different than it did just a generation ago. And the numbers tell us many of our friends don’t have enough savings to retire. The legislature is convened to solve big problems and the future of fiscal stability is one of them. Now is the time to look for solutions to plan for the future. Passing Senate Bill 173 sets us on that path to propose pro-business, pro-people solutions to help Coloradans thrive.

Democrat Kerry Donovan is a state senator and lives in Vail.

Critics of the Green New Deal rail against socialism. We’ve seen this before

The Green New Deal and its proponents aim to tackle the intertwined issues of social and environmental justice in our age of anthropogenic climate change. To accomplish this, they believe they must deploy the federal government, since it is the only institution large enough to coordinate and invest in the necessary policies. But the idea of expanding the role of government has attracted critics, who rail against socialism. To historians, this sounds familiar.

This is not the first time socialism, new deals and the environment have intersected. During the catastrophe of the Great Depression of the 1930s, the federal government similarly attempted to ameliorate social and environmental harms by investing in people and places through the New Deal. Then, as now, critics dismissed it as socialism.

The “socialist” sobriquet stokes ideological fires but douses historical understanding. One prominent example — Bob Marshall’s argument for nationalizing forests during the 1930s — reveals how socialist solutions emerge from specific contexts and problems, not ideological bunkers. In Marshall’s case, the dire state of private timberlands in the early 20th century prompted his call for reform. When massive problems develop, cross jurisdictional lines and are associated with market failures, big government responses can seem like the only possible solution.

By the early 20th century, hundreds of years of unregulated cutting had ravaged the nation’s forests, and Americans faced a crisis that demanded intervention. “Rocks and mountains may be ageless, but men and society are emphatically of the present, and they cannot wait for the slow process of nature to retrieve the catastrophe caused by their unthinking destructiveness,” wrote Marshall, a forester for federal agencies throughout his career, a co-founder of The Wilderness Society and the person for whom Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness Area is named.

A massive evaluation of American forestry conducted by the Forest Service in 1932 both shaped and reflected Marshall’s views. Appearing the next year, A National Plan for American Forestry, known as the Copeland Report, showed that private forests were failing. (The majority of the nation’s timber came from privately held forests, just as it does today.) They burned more often, were not harvested to provide a “continual crop of timber,” failed to protect watersheds and offered few recreational opportunities compared to public forests. They caused social problems, too, with lumber workers doing dangerous, transient jobs that resulted in mangled bodies and left hollowed-out towns behind. As Marshall saw it, “The private owner is thus responsible for almost every serious forest problem.”

So, Marshall argued that American timberlands should be publicly owned. In 1933, four years into the Depression and during the first year of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency, Marshall published The People’s Forests, his own radical extension of the Copeland Report, which advocated for public ownership of practically all commercial forests in America. He was writing amid an economic catastrophe mirrored in the nation’s wild and rural landscapes, where bankrupted farmers, out-of-work loggers and drought-driven refugees were common, not unlike today.

Throughout The People’s Forests, Marshall showed how private ownership, even when tempered by public regulation, fell short; only full public ownership could keep forests and communities healthy. He united a biological and social vision for forestry, one where human happiness and decent livelihoods might sprout from robust forests. In articulating that vision, he made his socialist case plain: “The fundamental advantage of public ownership of forests over private ownership is that in the former social welfare is substituted for private gain as the major objective of management.” Much the way today’s Green New Deal seeks to redress both economic and environmental impoverishment, Marshall sought to replace private profit with a broader public spiritedness that aimed for long-term stability, ending cut-and-run practices and ultimately strengthening communities.

Marshall’s call for reforms reflected an accelerating trend of expanding public lands in the 1930s, when the federal government acquired millions of acres for national parks, national forests and wildlife refuges. Newly passed laws, like the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act (1934) and the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act (1937), helped the government fund refuges, acquire property for conservation and bail out private owners who lived on wrecked lands. Starting around the same time and lasting until the 1950s, Forest Service administrators advocated for public regulation of logging on private land, principally citing concerns about declining timber production and the threat of fire on poorly managed parcels. Though ultimately unsuccessful, those efforts illustrated a push to establish stability amid unsettling crisis, a goal Marshall shared.

When capitalism stumbles badly, producing degraded lands and gaping inequalities, socialistic solutions rise in popularity, because their incentives are not tied to profits. Marshall’s closing line argues for that perspective: “The time has come when we must discard the unsocial view that our woods are the lumbermen’s and substitute the broader ideal that every acre of woodland in the country is rightly a part of the people’s forests.” Shouting “socialist” as an epithet is a tired strategy, a failure to reckon with specific contexts and problems, whether it’s damaged timberlands in the 1930s or rising sea levels today. The People’s Forests and the Green New Deal highlight the ways social and environmental harms are woven together, a reminder that real solutions require a mutual untangling, and that — despite American history and politics’ suspicion of true socialism — government necessarily holds many of the threads.

Adam M. Sowards is an environmental historian, professor and writer. He lives in Pullman, Washington.

Giving Thought: Smoothing the transition from school to ‘real world’

A little over four years ago, a collaborative effort commenced to establish dedicated college and career counseling at every public high school from Aspen to Parachute.

A project of Aspen Community Foundation’s Aspen to Parachute Cradle to Career Initiative, the Post High School Success project engaged Colorado Mountain College, all four school districts and other nonprofit partners to help prepare students for life after high school. Until the project launched in 2015, only Aspen and Basalt high schools had a specific college and career counseling program. Inspired by Aspen’s model, which had been in place for more than a decade, donors were interested in supporting the replication of it to high schools throughout the region.

Recognizing that businesses would benefit from more students being prepared for college and career, Aspen Skiing Co. led the charge, committing $500,000 to the project through the Ultimate Ski Pass program offered in conjunction with Aspen Community Foundation. This commitment included $250,000 in matching funds to encourage other business to contribute. Nearly 70 businesses have fulfilled the match over three years in support of the Post High School Success project.

Skico CEO Mike Kaplan explains the investment this way: “Quality education is important for our community and particularly for our employees raising families here. We believe that investing in our children is smart, as it improves our ability to attract and retain employees and leads to stronger citizenship as kids mature.”

There are many ways to invest in local schools, but the Post High School Success project focused specifically on the often difficult transition out of high school and into whatever comes next. Whether a graduate decides to go straight into the workforce or pursue a college degree, a counselor focused on postsecondary preparation can help ensure that the student is set up to succeed, and that the move occurs in the most conscious and cost-effective way.

“It’s really important for our young people to be as well-prepared as they can be for that transition into the real world,” said Mary Ryerson, executive vice president at Alpine Bank, another Post High School Success project supporter. “Those kids can come back to this valley and become contributing members of our community.”

For most Aspen-area kids, high school graduation leads directly to a four-year college or university, but many students at other high schools in the region follow various paths. One of the most important lessons learned through the project is the need to support students who may not choose to attend college but who still need help shaping a postsecondary plan, whether it’s technical training, the military or an apprenticeship in a building trade.

Trevor Cannon, president of Umbrella Roofing in Basalt, has supported the Post High School Success project as a vehicle to help kids not only with college, but also with career and life in general. Not every high school graduate is destined for a four-year degree, Cannon said, and college debt can be a huge burden for 20-somethings who don’t land a high-paying job.

“I really think we’re doing kids a disservice if we make them feel less than adequate for not going to college,” Cannon said. “I can hire a high school graduate and by the time he reaches 23 he can make $65,000 to $70,000 a year.”

As awareness has grown about the importance of college and career counseling and postsecondary education, progress has occurred in related areas too. The Western Slope College Fair introduces students to colleges and universities across the country. The two regional GlenX Career Expos connect high school students with businesses to learn about career opportunities. Students across the region have better access to job shadowing and internship opportunities. At-risk students have more supports to help them graduate successfully, develop postsecondary plans and achieve financial stability. More money also has been directed into regional scholarships to help students who most need them.

The Post High School Success project is in its fourth year and 100 percent of students from Aspen to Parachute have access to a specialized college and career counselor at school. Aspen Community Foundation continues to gather data about the impact of focused college and career counseling and student outcomes. The counselors themselves have formed a peer network, a place where they can learn, share and feel supported. And there is more to be done to ensure that each high school’s college and career counseling program will continue into the future.

By 2021, when the planned philanthropic funding ends and school districts take them on, nearly $1.5 million will have been invested and spent to establish these counseling programs. Thanks to the business partners and other donors who have invested in this important venture.

Tamara Tormohlen is the executive director of Aspen Community Foundation.

Judson Haims: Living with Parkinson’s Disease and turning challenges into success

Life has a way of presenting us with many challenges. Those who face the challenges, those who have the fortitude and perseverance, experience success.

Over the years, I have had to take more than a couple “profile” tests. Perhaps my first was with a college adviser who explained to me that such a test would help him, and me, better understand my personality traits and therefore be helpful in directing me to a college best suited to me and my goals. I took another when applying to the Air Force and another when purchasing Visiting Angels.

I have found a reoccurring question often found in these test: “Tell me about your heroes.” Steadfastly, I have always responded that I do not have heroes. Rather, I have people I respect and admire. Consistently, all such people are those who have experienced adversity and turned challenges into success.

Challenges are a part of life. Without them, life would be meaningless as we’d have little understanding of achievement and failure. Life would be complacent and boring.

Facing and living through life’s challenges and adversities provides us with experience that define our lives. The secret to our successes is rooted in our challenges, failures and adversities.

As with any ailment, people have the choice of letting the disease take over or fighting back. Fighting back against Parkinson’s Disease is taking many people to places they may have never thought of. Some are attending yoga, Tai Chi, pool exercise programs and even the boxing ring.

Recently, I assisted a few locals to a Parkinson’s therapy session at a somewhat unlikely place — a martial arts and boxing studio. If the paradox is not clear, let me illuminate. Parkinson’s inhibits movement and boxing is all about movement.

Research is showing that non-contact boxing is therapeutically beneficial for Parkinson’s patients — physically and mentally. Physically, boxing is proving to help balance, agility and hand-eye coordination. Mentally, boxing provides a stress release and is empowering. The sport teaches people to be mentally strong and overcome adversity. If nothing else, a right hook to a punching bag or strike mitt can curb anger and can be quite cathartic.

One gentleman in the group is just shy of his 90th birthday. I was informed that prior to his joining the boxing program, his family was distraught that they could not motivate him to get out of the chair. As I sat and watched him work out, I was impressed every time I heard the loud crack from his hands as he hit the hand pads of the instructor. Should I make it to be close to 90 years of age, I hope I move as deftly as he. He is inspirational and has turned formidable adversity into success.

Others in the group were in their 70s and 80s. Each had donned their red boxing gloves except for one who danced around the floor mats in bright pink gloves. Yes, women participate, too.

Watching the camaraderie of this group and their united front to work through the difficulties this movement disorder presents them with is encouraging to me and should be encouraging to anyone who may be fighting a health ailment.

I admire every one of these people. They have not given up, nor do they whine and ask “why me?” While I am sure each has had their down moments, they have not given up. They have chosen to fight adversity.

My mother has Parkinson’s, as did my grandmother. It sucks. But does Parkinson’s suck more or less than cancer, multiple sclerosis cardiovascular diseases, ALS, vision or hearing loss?

While many people living in our valley are pretty fit and try to be healthy, it won’t last forever. If we want to remain in the valley we love when life’s challenges present themselves, we must take action now to promote and develop resources that can help us stay here.

Within the past three months, I know of four longtime locals who have had to leave the valley they love because we do not have the resources needed to assist them. (I’m sure there are many more.)

There are organizations that are being proactive. Howard Head has developed a program called Brain & Balance. The program helps treat stroke patients, Parkinson’s patients and those with impaired balance and proprioception concerns. Additionally, the Parkinson’s Association of the Rockies has brought Power Punch to both our community and Colorado.

We are all going to get old and experience challenges with our health. Get involved, donate, better utilize resources we already have and think out of the box. These are things we can do to help build a community that will assist us in ensuring we can remain in the valley we love.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Aspen, Basalt and Carbondale. He is an advocate for our elderly and is available to answer questions. His contact information is www.visitingangels.com/comtns or 970-328-5526.

Guest commentary: Vaccinations are a must to stop outbreaks, make communities safe

Today, there are outbreaks of measles in Oregon, Washington, New York, Texas and Illinois and individual cases in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky and New Jersey. More than 206 people had been confirmed to have the disease in 2019 alone — a threefold increase from the same period in 2010.

Believe it or not, measles was declared eradicated from the United States in 2000. Now we hear daily of families afraid to leave home with their newborn for fear of contracting the disease.

These outbreaks are a blunt reminder of how vulnerable we are in Colorado. For the 2017-18 school year, Colorado’s vaccination rate for Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) ranked 49th out of 50 states, with a coverage rate of 88.7 percent for two doses of MMR, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Colorado allows for three types of exemptions (medical, religious and personal) for children to be able to attend school without immunizations.

In Pitkin County, all of the MMR exemptions filed, except one for religious reasons, were personal. These exemptions contributed to our coverage rate of 93 percent. We need a 95 percent coverage to prevent a measles outbreak. While the difference may seem small, it’s the difference between sickness and health for infants, those who have compromised immune systems and pregnant women.

Vaccines are one of the greatest successes of our time — reducing illness, medical costs and emotional heartbreak for countless families. Vaccines have eradicated smallpox, nearly eliminated polio, and reduced disability and suffering from infections caused by measles, diphtheria and whooping cough. Yet, vaccines are victims of their own success.

Across the country, we are seeing a rise in “vaccine hesitancy.” That is, families whose children do not receive immunizations within the schedule recommended by scientific research. This is not surprising, given that most of us have never had to witness the devastating consequences of diseases such as measles and mumps. But the impact of these illnesses can be life-changing. For example, mumps can cause infertility in boys; rubella can cause birth defects; and 1 in 4 people with measles will require hospitalization, according to the CDC. In 2017 in Colorado, 9,424 children were taken to the hospital because they were ill from a disease that could have been prevented by vaccination, the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition reported.

Some parents have concerns about vaccines because they are trying to do the best for their child and are, rightfully, being cautious about decisions that will affect them. This is every parent’s job, after all. The truth is, vaccination saves lives; approximately 33,000 each year in the U.S. alone. Some of the best minds in science have and continue to work on vaccines to make them safe and effective — for the community and for their own children.

In the end, we all pay the cost of controlling the spread of illness from diseases that can be prevented by a vaccine. Washington State declared a state of emergency in response to their measles outbreak in order to receive federal funding to respond; it’s cost over $1 million so far. Schools pay a cost to continue to meet education standards despite children being absent for weeks. And, most importantly, immunocompromised individuals and their families pay the cost of being vulnerable to severe illness.

For immunizations to protect each of us, all of us who can get fully vaccinated, must. Diseases quickly become outbreaks when we don’t work together. High rates of vaccination are needed to keep our families, friends, neighbors and communities healthy and safe. We are privileged to have access to vaccinations — an opportunity that many others do not. As a part of this community, we have a responsibility to each other. I am happy to speak to anyone, without judgment, to help you think through your worries and fears, if you are vaccine hesitant.

In the end, we all want the same thing: for our loved ones to be safe and healthy.

Karen Koenemann is the Pitkin County public health director. She can be reached at karen.koenemann@pitkincounty.com or 970-429-6171.

Giving Thought: House bill first step toward a true early-childhood system

Aspen Community Foundation is a big believer in early-childhood education, and we have some good news to report for our young children from the state Capitol.

House Bill 2019-1052 has the potential to make high-quality child care much more accessible across the state. It passed both chambers of the Colorado General Assembly with bipartisan support March 20 and is on its way Gov. Jared Polis’ desk. We’re optimistic that he will sign it.

HB19-1052 authorizes the creation of early-childhood development service districts for children from birth through 8 years of age. These services could include early care and education, physical and mental health, and developmental services, including prevention and intervention. These districts are then able to seek voter approval to levy property taxes and sales and use taxes to generate revenue for early childhood development services.

More than 2,000 special districts already exist in our state, and they fund services ranging from fire protection to sanitation, public libraries and parks. HB19-1052 doesn’t spend any state money or take any specific action, other than to allow the creation of special districts specifically for early-childhood purposes. Voters within the district’s boundaries would have to approve the idea first.

Here’s why HB19-1052 could be a game-changer for the Aspen to Parachute region. For years, ACF and other early-childhood advocates have sought to provide high-quality, affordable early-childhood education throughout the region. But that’s a tall order in a region that includes three counties, nine towns and four school districts. By creating one special district to encompass the entire economically integrated region, we could reduce the cost of local preschool spaces through the collection of a modest property or sales tax and help make it affordable for many more families.

“A lot of people live in Glenwood Springs but work in Aspen, for example, and they’re regularly commuting across political boundaries,” said Cody Belzley of Common Good Consulting, an advocate for the legislation. “We’re trying to empower communities to work across those boundaries in a regional way.”

In some ways, the genesis of HB19-1052 began with ACF’s Aspen to Parachute Cradle to Career Initiative, which has the goals of ensuring children are ready for kindergarten and graduate from high school ready for college and career. The Cradle to Career partners recognized that in addition to creating more space for preschool and child care, they also needed to address affordability and quality. There are programs that help make preschool more affordable for low-income and at-risk children and, as a community foundation, ACF has provided grants to nonprofit preschools to help reduce the cost for families. But these efforts aren’t enough to serve everyone.

A diverse group of school, business and nonprofit leaders, known as the Rocky Mountain Preschool Coalition, was formed to look at potential policy levers and, ultimately, build awareness and public will to increase public funding for early childhood education. Led by MANAUS, a local nonprofit focused on addressing social issues in the community, the coalition has been gathering feedback from the community and looking at models for how the tax dollars could be allocated.

“The only way to level the playing field for all our kiddos throughout our diverse mountain communities is to advocate for a universal, publicly funded early childhood education initiative,” said Cindy Kahn, director of MANAUS. “Prevention is much less expensive than remediation. You can either pay today or pay more tomorrow. We owe it to our community to offer this option.”

Other regions support the legislation, too, from front range counties such as Denver, Boulder and Larimer, to Western Slope areas in San Miguel, Summit and Mesa counties. And there are models in the state that show how this could work. The Denver Preschool Program and Kids First in Aspen are examples of communities that are successfully employing tax dollars to make preschool more affordable and higher quality.

If the bill is indeed signed into law, that is only the first step. Local governments across the Aspen-to-Parachute region (or any region that wishes to form a special district) would have to develop a service plan, a district court would have to approve the plan’s inclusion on an election ballot, and voters would have to approve the ballot measure.

With the bill’s passing in the Colorado General Assembly, we hope and expect that the governor will give its citizens this important tool, which has the potential to improve thousands of Colorado children’s lives.

Tamara Tormohlen is executive director of Aspen Community Foundation.

Judson Haims: New form of staph infection becoming more prevalent

I first learned of MRSA infections a few years ago when two clients in different counties had become ill complaining of fatigue, shortness of breath and chills. Their primary medical providers had no specific answers.

It was not until one patient’s ailments became so severe that they visited the hospital and had been diagnosed with MRSA that we mentioned the occurrence to the other’s medical providers.

While we thought it was a shot in the dark, we asked if it was possible that they too might have contracted it. After a visit to their medical provider, we were informed that they too had contracted it.

Since then, a friend shared with me that they had contracted MRSA after a knee replacement and had to have the prosthetic removed until the infection cleared. Last month, after returning from a facility in the Front Range one of our clients shared with us their experience with contracting MRSA.

MRSA can occur within a medical facility or because of an arbitrary scratch or break in the skin. Learning about the signs and symptoms may not only help yourself but may also help you identify symptoms in people you love and care about.

MRSA is short for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. It is a serious global health care problem and is more prevalent in the community than you might think. In fact, many people carry the organism but never know they have it because they don’t have symptoms. Anyone can get MRSA.

MRSA is a potentially dangerous type of staph bacteria that is resistant to certain antibiotics such as penicillin and amoxicillin. Normally, non-serious cases of MRSA are found in the communities in which we live. Most often, such cases present themselves as infections that may have occurred from broken skin, such as a cut or scrape.

More severe or potentially life-threatening MRSA infections occur most frequently among patients in hospitals or other inpatient settings and are commonly seen in bloodstream infections or surgical site infections. Approximately 5 percent of patients in U.S. hospitals carry MRSA in their nose or on their skin about one out of every three people are carriers.

Within the hospital environment, the most contaminated surfaces are often bed tables, bed rails, other flat surfaces, bed linens and patient gowns. However, health care facilities can mitigate cross-contamination by being particularly vigilant in controlling them with the use of hospital-grade disinfectants and sanitizers that are rated to kill 99.999 percent of microorganisms and bacteria.

How can I catch it?

You can get MRSA through direct skin to skin contact with an infected person or by sharing personal items such as towels or razors that have touched the infected skin.

Outside of hospitals or inpatient settings, there is little risk of transmitting MRSA; therefore, most healthy people are at a lower risk of becoming infected.

Is it treatable?

Yes, MRSA is treated with a different group of antibiotics that are not resistant to staph. When treated with antibiotics the risk of spreading MRSA is very low; so if a client has been treated, the risk of spreading to the caregiver is very low.

How do I care for someone with MRSA?

In the home, the following precautions should be followed:

• Wash your hands with soap and water after physical contact with the infected person and before leaving the home.

• Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until healed.

• Towels used for drying hands after contact should be used only once. Use paper towels and dispose in the trash after use. MRSA can survive on most towels for as long as a couple of weeks or more.

• Disposable gloves should be worn if contact with body fluids is expected, and hands should be washed after removing the gloves.

• Linens should be changed and washed using the hottest temperatures on a routine basis.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Aspen, Basalt and Carbondale. He is an advocate for our elderly and is available to answer questions. He can be reached at www.visitingangels.com/comtns or 970-328-5526.