Chaffee County Commissioner Greg Felt said Friday one of the challenges the county is facing in the COVID-19 pandemic is providing consistent messaging through the county and municipalities.

Speaking at the weekly town hall hosted by Chaffee County Public Health on Facebook Live and Zoom, he commended Public Health for helping create and promote consistent messaging that Chaffee County is not open for business, tourists or recreation.

Felt said mobile messaging boards on through highways are displaying that consistent messaging urging people to stay home. 

He said they still need to refine the simplicity of the message.

“There’s a real tension between messaging and enforcement or messaging and orders,” Felt said. 

“We need to do both, but frankly it’s a challenge for us. People have been asking why we don’t have sheriff’s deputies at the entrances to our county and why aren’t we stopping people and turning them around,” he said 

The biggest reason, he said, is the county simply doesn’t have the capacity to do that. 

The county is also not able to close U.S. highways that cross the country and connect states. 

“If you need to come through, come on through to get to where you’re going,” Felt said. 

Felt touched on preparations going on in the county. 

“We are in what I’ve heard referenced as the calm before the storm from a medical or epidemiological standpoint,” he said. “We’ll hope it’s a small storm, but we don’t know what we have coming yet.” 

He thanked the hospital, other medical providers and Public Health, who are “doing a lot to prepare for that worst-case scenario.” 

“Our mantra has been, ‘we may never know if we overreacted to the situation, but we will definitely know if we under-reacted,’” Felt said. 

He said the county is turning over all stones to ensure we’re ready, including possible surge capacity at the fairgrounds if necessary. 

Felt said the economic recovery team convened by the county with the Chaffee County Economic Development Corp. and Small Business Development Center is being chaired by Commissioners Keith Baker and Rusty Granzella, Dave Blazer of The Trailhead in Buena Vista and Jeff Post of First Colorado Land Office. 

“There’s a lot of work going into this right now so that we are ready when the recovery comes. We are making resources available to our business community so that they can find their way through the complex legislative solutions that are coming out of Washington,” Felt said. 

He said he was recently on a conference call with commissioners from other counties and became aware that a difference between Chaffee and other counties is that Chaffee County has already developed an economic recovery team and is taking proactive steps to prepare ourselves to recover from this and “to get people back to work and get our livelihoods back as well as our lives.” 

He said no other counties were talking about that but were focused on medical and tax revenue challenges. 

Felt said he was proud of our business and government communities for having already taken that step.

Andrea Carlstrom, county public health director and COVID-19 incident command said 11 of the 21 reported cases in the county indicated they were recovered from the virus.

She said 55 people have used the self-reporting tool and three have used the self-reporting tool to indicate their symptoms have resolved. Both tools are accessible via chaffeecounty.org.  

Carlstrom said the latest updated version of critical business lists and criteria is available at covid19.co.gov for those who are unsure if their business qualified as critical.

Dr. Erica Gelgand, medical director in charge of infection prevention at Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center, said the hospital currently has no admitted COVID-19 patients. 

She said they are actively screening at the emergency room tent, Buena Vista Health Center and HRRMC Salida Family Medicine Clinic on U.S. 50. 

Gelgand said the hospital is well set up and ready. 

“Hopefully the warm weather will keep us from spreading the germs in close contact” she said. 

Josh Hadley, Chaffee County Emergency Medical Services director, said in the last month crews engaged in 18 percent more call volume than last year at this time. He said 25 percent of calls were consistent with COVID patients. 

Hadley said they are really encouraging staff not to become complacent, especially concerning personal protective equipment. 

Hadley offered his thanks for contributors during the recent PPE drive. 

“This is valuable stuff for us to have access to,” he said. 

Kelsey McNeill of Solvista Health said Solvista continues to be available to anyone who needs help. 

They are working remotely and providing help via telephone or television audio meetings in the home. They’re available 24/7 at 719-539-6502.

McNeill said Solvista’s mission continues to be to help support emotional needs of our community as we face this unprecedented time. She also mentioned the emotional check-in survey available on Solvista’s Facebook page and the COVID-19 Chaffee County Facebook page.

To view the full meeting, visit the COVID-19 Chaffee County Facebook page.

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