Kremmling Requests Exemption from Health Orders

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The last meeting of the Kremmling Board of Trustees discussed infrastructure budgeting, mosquito management bids, and a motion to develop an exemption letter for Grand County to object to stricter regulations from the Colorado Governor’s Executive Stay-at-Home Order. 

Council members continuously referred to Eagle County’s partial relief application from Colorado stay-at-home orders on April 16, 2020, as an example of how Kremmling could possibly appeal to Grand County and State, “asking for an exemption to do what Eagle county did for the Western side of the county” said Town Trustee, Dave Sammons.

Eagle County was approved for partial relief from the Colorado stay-at-home orders on Thursday, April 23, 2020. 

The discussion continued for the letter to be sent to county commissioners. “Every town in the county is not the same. Kremmling is an exception and [Grand County needs] to allow towns to open the way they want to open.” A vote was cast to move forward towards action on lifting restrictions on Kremmling from at least the County orders. 

The vote was unanimously in favor and a letter authored by Town Manager, Dan Stoltman was sent to the BOCC on April 27, 2020, stating “The Town respectfully requests that the Town of Kremmling be given an exemption from current and future Grand County Health orders with regards to any restrictions on our Town’s businesses.

The Town understands the concerns over COVID-19, and is not endorsing a total free for all. However, we believe that the business community needs to begin preparing to reopen, and should be allowed to determine what safety measures are best for their establishments and customers.”

BOCC encourages County exemption

The Town’s letter was discussed at Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Grand County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC). District 3 Commissioner and Board Chair Kristen Manguso expressed early backing for the Town, stating “I support the towns being in charge of their own destiny for stuff like this.” 

Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Co-commander Brad White indicated that the correct process would see the County first garnering exemption from the State, after which it could grant waivers from County restrictions to the towns.  Manguso reiterated, “I would favor a county waiver. It gives us flexibility. (…) We could make our own decisions. It would provide some personal responsibility.” Commissioners Rich Cimino and Merrit Linke agreed and also expressed a desire to “work toward the county waiver.” As Linke stated, “I would like to get things open, whatever that looks like. But we understand we need to do that in a structured way.”

White outlined some of the requirements that would qualify Grand County for an exemption from the state, which include an alternative COVID-19 suppression plan that is endorsed by the local public health agency and adopted by the local BOCC and verification by local hospitals that they have the capacity to serve all people potentially needing care. Among other considered conditions are a low number of new cases reported in the county, a decline in cases in the previous 14 days, a declining ratio of positive tests in the previous 14 days, and defined “triggers for tightening restrictions” if needed.

Grand County’s case numbers, while low, are on the rise with a newly diagnosed case being reported last week and a sixth probable case awaiting results for a local worker who resides primarily out-of-county. Brene Belew-Ladue, County Public Health Director, also emphasized that the consideration “is not just about our case count. It is about our testing ability, our ability to get personal protective equipment to have on hand. It’s also about the ability of Public Health to investigate cases if we surge.”

Cimino acknowledged these concerns and warned about the county “getting our hopes up.” He verified that both Denver Health and Middle Park Health would need to sign off on the alternative plan and stressed that “Eagle County’s health care system, Vail Valley Health, has capabilities that we may not have here.”

In a later phone conversation, Schelly Olson, Public Information Officer for the Joint Information Center, echoed this. “Eagle County has lots more testing & health care capability than we do. They have more numbers and more data. For Grand County to get a variance, our testing capabilities would have to increase. We have to see what more contact does to the disease level. We can’t keep looking to what other counties are doing. We need to do what’s best for Grand County. We need more data, but a return to normal is always the goal to work toward.” 

County Attorney Chris Leahy assured that both Public Health and the EOC have “been doing all the work necessary to get ready for a waiver. The main hang-ups are testing and contact tracing.”

White and Belew-Ladue explained that the primary goals of the EOC in the following week or so were to build better testing capacity in the county, to determine local “trigger points” for loosening and tightening restrictions, to talk with health care partners, and to bolster contact tracing abilities, in order to meet variance criteria. White further cautioned that there are significant penalties for defying State orders until such time as a waiver is granted. Violators risk losing COVID-related monies and endangering professional licenses regulated by the State.

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