Boulder County emergency personnel have activated a call line to field questions from residents about how to conduct themselves, as Coloradans try to adapt to the suspension of public life as they once knew it.
Mike Chard, director of the Boulder Office of Emergency Management, said the virtual call center has been launched to boost messaging about what people can and can’t do under Gov. Jared Polis’s statewide stay-at-home order that took effect at 6 a.m. Thursday in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor’s directive resulted in Boulder County promptly rescinding its own, similar order.
Late Friday, Boulder County Public Health reported its most current available data, showing that 76 county residents have tested positive for the new coronavirus, with 10 hospitalized. One has died, 24 are isolating at home and 33 have recovered. Investigations are ongoing concerning 10 of those patients.
Statewide, the numbers were also sobering. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment late Friday reported that deaths had jumped in one day from 26 to 31. Across Colorado, there were 1,734 cases across 42 counties, with 239 people hospitalized, and outbreaks at nine residential and non-hospital health care facilities. Those number were current only through Thursday’s available state data.
People need to self-police, to have a hope of limiting the pandemic’s toll in Boulder County and throughout the state, Chard said.
“If there is a thousand people in the community who don’t want to comply with the order, and it creates an unlawful situation, there are not enough cops to go out on what people are noticing,” said Chard, who is overseeing what has been branded as the Boulder Area Coordination and Management Center for responding to the coronavirus crisis.
“There are only so many cops,” Chard said. “We need people to be in a partnership with us to get us through this time. The quicker we can go through this curve, the quicker it’s flattened, the quicker we can get life back on track and get back to normal.”
What is ‘essential’?
Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said earlier in the week he hopes his deputies will not need to be in an enforcement mode to support Polis’ order, and that their role would be more in line with educating members of the public, when and where necessary.
The county’s call center will operate from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Friday, and then an assessment will be made as to what the hours should be, from that point forward.
“We’re also encouraging people who have general questions to call Colorado Help,” an information hotline sponsored by the CDPHE, said George Twigg, joint information systems manager for the coordination and management center.
“A lot of the questions we get are for clarifications of what is ‘essential,’ what falls under the specific definitions,” Twigg said. “I think the really important thing we’re trying to emphasize is, where there are some gray areas in certain instances, the real intent of the policy is very clear and very important, and that is, to slow the spread of this disease, we need people to stay at home as much as they can, outside of absolutely essential activities. The disease spreads through contacts between people.”
Twigg acknowledged that getting outside and getting fresh air and exercise is important, and that Boulder County is a community where many are particularly intent on doing so. Boulder County Parks and Open Space on Friday reported “record crowds” at county and municipal trails, despite the stay at home order.
With many area recreational attractions closed to the public, Twigg said officials are making “a concrete effort to try and make sure people are aware there are a lot of neighborhood parks and trails and great opportunities to get out and get fresh air close to home, as opposed to having a lot of people converge on concentrated areas of trailheads and other further destinations.”
In a statement, Boulder County Parks & Open Space Director Eric Lane said, “We are all in this situation together, and every person is responsible for doing their best to keep everyone else safe, whether on their local sidewalk or a foothills trail. So get out and reap the benefits to health and well-being of recreating outdoors.
“But please do so responsibly by following the social distancing protocols, obeying all rules and parking restrictions, and being kind to one another.”
‘It’s very competitive’
In addition to boosting its communication capabilities and public messaging, Chard said the coordination and management center, which is being referred to as BACMC, is teaming with area partners to ensure to the extent possible that there are adequate medical emergency supplies
“Our hospitals or large institutions have their own approach to that, or their own emergency management centers,” Chard said. “But we’re definitely integrated with them. and if we have a problem occurring in a facility, and we have a PPE (personal protection equipment) cache that can support that, we’re going to reinforce those institutions.
“We have strong bond with our long-term health care facilities. We’re monitoring and communicating with them pretty frequently where, if their status is falling into a critical need, we would reinforce with whatever PPE cache we have on hand.”
The county center received “a pretty large order” of such material Friday, Chard said. “It’s very competitive and everybody is calling for the same stuff, the same equipment. We’re trying to do everything we can, so we can reinforce, as needed.”
Chard estimated that the county is about two weeks into what might be an eight-week effort around coronavirus emergency response, and that the final few weeks of that should be in mostly a recovery mode.
For questions and concerns on Colorado’s Stay at Home Order:
The first stop for people with questions about Gov. Jared Polis’s statewide Stay at Home Order should be covid19.colorado.gov. Many questions can be answered through the resources at that site. If something is still unclear about the state order, people can call CO-Help at 303-389-1687 or 1-877-462-2911 or email [email protected].
The Boulder County Call Center at 720-776-0822 will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. through April 3.
The Colorado Attorney General is also taking reports about violations of the order at [email protected].
People are being encouraged to call the 211 number for matters around Human and Social Services.
Source: The Boulder Area Management and Coordination Center