Making the vaccine case for lift operators
Dear Governor Jared Schutz Polis,
I write to you today, in hopes of convincing your cabinet to include lift operators in your classification of those eligible for vaccines under phase 1B.3 of the Colorado vaccine rollout plan. Phase 1B.3 will allow frontline workers to receive a vaccine. Besides being frontline workers, lift operators within the state of Colorado do not meet the current criteria to receive the vaccine as outlined under phase 1B.3 which defines frontline workers as those working in:
Agriculture, manufacturing, U.S. postal service, public transit and specialized transportation staff, grocery, public health, frontline essential human service workers, faith leaders, and direct care providers for Coloradans experiencing homelessness, and essential frontline journalists.”
While lift operators should not be the top priority within the classification listed herein, nor should they be the top priority in the sections preceding 1B.3 (1A, 1B.1, 1B.2), there is an argument to be made that lift operators should have the opportunity to receive vaccines at the same time or before “Adults who received a placebo during a COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial,” as outlined by Phase 2.
As a lift operator, my daily duties include:
1. Elevating children under 5 feet onto chairlifts, many of whom are prone to be asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19;
2. Greeting and socializing with an average of 500+ guests per day. Guests include tourists from all across the United States, and across the world. Frequent travelers are more likely to catch COVID-19.
I worry that due to my frequent exposure to asymptomatic individuals, the risk that I, and other lift operators can spread COVID-19 to local Roaring Fork Valley families is high.
Aspen Skiing Co. has done a fantastic job of assuring their employees continually follow stringent COVID-19 protocols including consistent face mask usage, and frequent hand washing, to conserve a safe environment for patrons and employees.
However, the tactics of containment will only go so far. Colorado has a unique economy, heavily centered around the ski industry. The ski industry generates $4.8 billion in annual economic output and supports more than 46,000 year-round jobs. Your cabinet is already well aware: shutting down operations at ski resorts is not a feasible option. Instead, to continually support a steady supply of jobs and boost the state’s economy it is imperative resorts keep running. Ski resorts cannot function without the work of their lift operators, many of whom are risking their lives daily to assure the state gets back on track and back to life.
Economics student, Northwestern
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