Public health official: Only half of Snowmass businesses have submitted required safety plan | AspenTimes.com
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Public health official: Only half of Snowmass businesses have submitted required safety plan

Pitkin County public health officials briefed Snowmass Town Council on Monday about what data it has on confirmed COVID-19 cases and public health order compliance in the village, and how town officials can support the county’s larger containment strategies moving forward.

According to Karen Koenemann, Pitkin County public health director, the county is in an “all-hands-on-deck” mode as it, the state and the nation see increases in confirmed positive COVID-19 cases and spread of the novel coronavirus.

She emphasized the county’s commitment to its eight guiding response goals — including “flattening the curve,” preparing for a surge of severe COVID-19 cases that impacts the health care system, and creating organizational infrastructure to maintain a long-term, sustainable response — and stressed that it’s going to take a continued and focused community effort to help slow coronavirus spread and ultimately save lives.

“We’re really at a critical stage in our community around disease transmission. It’s truly an all-hands-on-deck place where anything anyone can do (to mitigate the spread of COVID-19) is going to be helpful,” Koenemann said.

“It really does take all of the community, everything from the individual to the family to the sector to the community level support, so our individual choices right now can really make a difference in how successful we can be in reducing our spread.”

In June and July, Pitkin County began to see an increase in new confirmed positive COVID-19 cases, with the daily average rate climbing from about one new case per day in early June, to one-to-two in mid- and late June, to three-to-four in mid-July, as presented Monday by Josh Vance, an epidemiologist working with Pitkin County Public Health.

“That may not seem that significant but when we’re getting that per day it adds up pretty quickly,” Vance said of the average daily rate data.

Breaking those numbers down a little further, Vance explained that the confirmed positive COVID-19 case data does not include visitors to Pitkin County, only county residents, to ensure a case isn’t “double counted.”

Vance also showed that over the past several months of the COVID-19 crisis, around 14 to 15 confirmed cases have been Snowmass Village residents, and that the county is seeing a slight increase in Snowmass cases.

“We are beginning to see some more town of Snowmass Village cases from over the last month or so,” Vance said.

As Pitkin County public health officials continue to work to slow the spread of COVID-19, Koenemann and Bryan Daugherty of Pitkin County Public Health said the county health department has roughly doubled its staff and continues to evolve its operations and services to better respond to the current crisis.

Daugherty, who usually works as the environmental health specialist for Pitkin County, is now heading the new Consumer Protection and Employee Health Program, which aims to ensure all county businesses are following the established COVID-19 safety guidelines relevant to their sector; to respond to community concerns and investigate potential issues in a timely fashion; and to gain compliance from businesses through enforcement actions when necessary.

And while the biggest complaint trends recently have been related to mask usage, crowding, social distancing and things not in violation of the current public health order (like riding a bike or walking on a trail without a mask on), Daugherty said another concern is only roughly 50% of Snowmass businesses have submitted a COVID-19 Safety Plan to county public health officials — a safety plan that is required to be submitted to and approved by Pitkin County before a business can reopen under the current public health order.

Daugherty said the Consumer Protection and Employee Health Program team did not know until late last week that so many Snowmass businesses had yet to submitted safety plans. It is working with Snowmass Tourism on putting together a list of all the Snowmass businesses that need to submit safety plans so the team can reach out to them, he said.

“We’re working through this. … We’re trying the best we can to create a plan (to address this concern) but right now we’re asking each business individually as we see them without plans to submit them as soon as possible,” Daugherty said.

Town Manager Clint Kinney said he was unaware of this percentage of businesses without approved COVID-19 safety plans and asked county public health officials to keep the town informed on how it can help these businesses come into compliance.

“If there’s something we can be doing let us know. … We’re here to help,” Kinney said.

Outside of working with the town on getting these business safety plans submitted, Koenemann also asked Snowmass officials to participate in the county’s new mask campaign — which includes photos of locals wearing masks and a quote on why they feel it’s important — and to sign onto a letter to the community from all Pitkin County municipalities stressing that “we’re all in this together.”

Overall, Koenemann said she is appreciative of the town of Snowmass Village’s support as the county responds to the COVID-19 crisis.

“I feel like you’ve been a really great partner all along and you’ve really taken a hold of your community and done some really good on-the-ground work,” Koenemann said to Snowmass officials. “We’ve felt a lot of support from the council and so I just want to put that out there as a big thank you.”

mvincent@aspentimes.com


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