Moffat County considering third variance request; addresses issues with Public Health Hotline
Holding a special Board of Public Health meeting Thursday morning inside the Commissioners’ Chambers at the Moffat County Courthouse, the Moffat County Board of Public Health – made up of Commissioners Ray Beck, Don Cook, and Donald Broom – along with Moffat County Public Health Director Kari Ladrow and Public Health Nurse Olivia Scheele discussed the next steps forward in Moffat County.
Opening up the meeting, the Board of Public Health discussed putting together a third variance request regarding pools and public gatherings to submit to the Governor’s office.
With Governor Jared Polis expected to outline a plan June 1 for public pools to reopen this summer, Director Ladrow advised the Board of Public Health to wait until June 1 to hear what Gov. Polis says before submitting a variance request.
“We just learned yesterday [Wednesday] that the Governor is expected to put out some information regarding pools on June 1,” Ladrow said. “I know the Parks and Recreation Department has been working really hard on a mitigation plan, so if we submit a variance request before the Governor outlines the plans, we risk not having the variance approved.
“We can submit a variance request if you want, but it might be better to wait and see what the Governor says.”
Following a short discussion regarding a future variance request and the possible June 1 announcement by Governor Polis, the Moffat County Board of Public Health decided to put together a rough outline of a third variance request, allowing them to change some criteria in the request before sending it off to Gov. Polis’ office and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for approval.
“I’d rather put this together now and have it ready to go, rather than wait until June 1 and then put together a plan,” Commissioner Beck said. “Let’s have it ready to go so that we can just hit the send button when it’s time.”
“If he [Gov. Polis] comes out and says something on Monday that we want to change, we can edit our request quickly before sending,” Commissioner Cook added.
It is unclear at this time what limits within public pools will look like, or what the Moffat County Board of Public Health will ask for in its variance request. However, Moffat County Public Health is preparing to ask for an increase in numbers for public gatherings in hopes of allowing up to 50 people at outdoor events this summer.
The issue with the in-person gatherings limit is that there’s no real difference between indoor and outdoor gatherings, Commissioner Cook said.
“There’s just no template there,” Commissioner Cook said. “If we go too big with the idea being for outdoor events, we could get denied.”
“We have seen some variations at the state level regarding indoor versus outdoor,” Medical Officer Dr. Brian Harrington said. “But that’s mostly been on the Front Range.”
The Craig Press will provide more updates regarding the third variance request once Moffat County Public Health submits its request early next week.
HEALTH HOTLINE A HOT TOPIC
During Thursday’s Board of Public Health meeting, the Board of Public Health and Moffat County Public Health talked about the Health Hotline and how it’s taken on a life of its own, causing some headaches.
Initially created to help businesses and residents work through issues and better understand what Public Health is asking the community to do, the hotline has turned into a sort of reporting hotline where residents, in a sense, are telling on each other.
“From our perspective, we view it as an opportunity for people to let us know what’s going on so we can work with people and educate them,” Ladrow said. “It was meant more for business owners and helping them get supplies or educating workers, things like that. There’s a perception now that it’s a tattletale line where people are calling to tell on other residents that may not be following guidelines.”
“I think this hotline is a real need here; we just need to change the perception,” Commissioner Cook said.
The problem, according to Scheele (who is in charge of responding to hotline calls), is that there’s no real clear way to handle the situations that are arising.
“I can tell them the facts regarding what we’re trying to do in the community, but then it turns into callers asking what we’re actually trying to do, in terms of are we really enforcing what we’re saying or not,” Scheele said. “I feel like I’m stuck in the middle. I want to tell them what I personally want them to do and what to follow, but I can’t; my hands are tied. So if we have these guidelines we have to enforce them.”
While the Board of Public Health isn’t ordering masks to be worn everywhere in public, the Board of Public Health, along with County Attorney Rebecca Tyree, will begin sending out Request to Comply letters to those businesses, specifically at personal service businesses, that are not following Public Health guidelines.
What happens to those businesses that receive a Request to Comply letter and continue to fail to meet compliance is being discussed at this time with Public Health and the Board of Public Health.
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