Medical – The Pagosa Springs SUN The most trusted source for news and information about Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Wed, 29 Jul 2020 21:11:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Medical – The Pagosa Springs SUN 32 32 Wolf Creek Ski Area seeking public input with reopening survey Thu, 30 Jul 2020 11:00:02 +0000 By John Finefrock
Staff Writer

Wolf Creek Ski Area (WCSA) is seeking public input to plan for reopening next winter amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The full version of this story is available in the print edition and e-edition of the Pagosa Springs SUN. Subscribe today by calling (970)264-2100 or click here.

Archuleta County seeing increase in severity among COVID-19 cases Thu, 30 Jul 2020 10:58:10 +0000

Map courtesy Gov. Jared Polis’ office
On Tuesday, Gov. Jared Polis presented a map showing the two-week incidence rate per 100,000 of population for Colorado’s counties, which revealed Archuleta County is in the highest category.

By Randi Pierce
Staff Writer

“There’s no doubt that increased testing means increased cases, but we’re seeing increased sick people with COVID, so it is not just the increased testing,” Pagosa Springs Medical Center (PSMC) CEO Dr. Rhonda Webb told the board of the Upper San Juan Health Service District (USJHSD) Tuesday evening.

That board oversees PSMC’s operations.

Earlier in the day Tuesday, Gov. Jared Polis presented a map visualizing two-week incidence rates for Colorado’s counties, with that map showing Archuleta County in the highest category — or more than 100 infections per 100,000 people (which helps adjust for population) — of new confirmed positive cases.

“And red is kind of where alarm bells should be ringing the most,” he said, adding later, “And, frankly, every county that’s seen case growth needs to take prompt and bold action to reverse that.”

Polis later noted that 15 counties in the state had been notified that if they cannot slow the trend of new cases within two weeks, their variances would be taken away.

Polis added the state is also watching those counties with high incidence rates that do not have variances — the category Archuleta County falls into. 

“We want to work with counties in this critical window to get them strong and back on track,” he said.

Webb told the USJHSD board it is unclear if Archuleta County will have to revert to an earlier Safer at Home phase if it continues to be red, with PSMC Chief Administrative Officer Ann Bruzzese indicating it was implied.

Clarification from Polis’ office and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment was not available by press time Wednesday.

“This message that came today reflects what we’re seeing here in the hospital,” Webb said. “We are seeing an increase in symptomatic and sick patients, so we are transferring patients out who are sick, quite sick, to higher levels of care.”

Later in the meeting, Chief Nursing Officer/Chief Operating Officer Kathee Douglas noted that PSMC has had around seven hospitalized patients who were either confirmed COVID-19 positives or presumed positives who were discharged prior to their test results coming back.

She added that PSMC transferred three people to a higher level of care Tuesday and more the previous day.

“That is concerning to us,” she said. “That has not been the trend.”

She noted that PSMC’s hospitalizations were not lengthy stays and those patients were not critically ill.

“In the last few days, we’ve seen a lot of critical illness,” she said.

Webb noted that, because of the increase in cases, PSMC has started moving some employees back to working from home.

She also stated that PSMC has had employees who do not have contact with patients who have tested positive, noting that PSMC employees are rigorously screened and tested.

PSMC remains open and safe, she noted.

Tracking community activity

As part of its efforts, San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) is using phone data to track what is going on in the communities it covers.

SJBPH Director of Communications Claire Ninde wrote in an email to The SUN Wednesday that, as of the most recent data, 23 percent of Archuleta County’s activity was of Archuleta County origin.

Another 29 percent was of Texas origin, she noted.

“Not all of the 77% of activity that is non-Archuleta County are tourists – some are non-resident workers, accessing services, seeking medical care, etc.,” she wrote.

COVID-19 case counts
The following information was current as of press time. 
Archuleta County
Residents: 34
Residents recovered: 8
Nonresidents: 30
La Plata County: 192
Conejos County: 21
Rio Grande County: 87
Mineral County: 18
Hinsdale County: 3
San Juan County, N.M.: 2,946
Rio Arriba County, N.M.: 281
Jicarilla Apache Nation: 207

LEAP application period closing July 31 Sat, 25 Jul 2020 11:00:35 +0000 By Jane Dvorak
Low-income Energy Assistance Program

Colorado LEAP (Low-income Energy Assistance Program) will accept applications through July 31 as the annual benefit program begins to wind down the 2019-2020 funding period. LEAP is normally available Nov. 1 to April 30. This year, the application deadline was extended because of the increased need created by COVID-19. 

“These benefits are often the difference between buying groceries and needed prescriptions or having your heat bill go unpaid,” Kullen said. “We partner with other organizations to assist with additional emergencies like repairs and replacement.”

LEAP provides onetime heating assistance to individuals, families and older adults to help cover the cost of utility bills. Residents with an annual income up to 60 percent of the State Median Income and an individual household monthly income not exceeding $2,371/month or $4,561/month for a family of four may be eligible for benefits.

Applicants must also pay home heating costs to a landlord or utility company, meet the gross income limits, be residents of Colorado, and contain at least one United States citizen or permanent legal resident of the U.S.

Applications are available through the end of July at Colorado PEAK or at Colorado LEAP. The website provides details about the application process and eligibility information.

For more information, call (866) HEAT-HELP [(866) 432-8435].

Governor announces rental assistance fund Sat, 25 Jul 2020 11:00:12 +0000 Gov. Jared Polis’ office

Gov. Jared Polis and the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) announced the Property Owner Preservation (POP) Program for rental assistance resulting from HB20-1410, COVID-19-related Housing Assistance. 

This legislation allocates nearly $20 million in federal CARES Act funding for housing assistance.

“This has been an incredibly challenging time for many Coloradans,” Polis said. “I want to thank the legislators who worked on this bill and applaud them for their efforts. This fund will help Coloradans who have been financially impacted by the pandemic and need rent assistance. This pandemic is far from over and we will continue working to do everything we can to help provide some relief to those who have been significantly impacted. We are all in this together and we will get through this together.”

This bill allocates $19,650,000 to the Housing Development Grant Fund administered by the Division of Housing within DOLA. These funds will be used to provide housing assistance, including rental assistance, mortgage assistance and guidance on how to access other housing services to Coloradans facing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While the majority of renters and homeowners have continued to make rental and mortgage payments, there are thousands of households that have been unable to do so due to the economic impacts of COVID-19,” said Rick M. Garcia, executive director of DOLA. “The POP program will allow for landlords to apply for assistance on behalf of tenants and help with Colorado’s housing stability.”

“House Democrats returned to the Legislature in May committed to helping Coloradans affected by COVID-19 make ends meet,” said Rep. Tony Exum, D-Colorado Springs. “We delivered. This new support for homeowners and renters will go a long way towards helping Coloradans make their rent or mortgage and stay in their home. I’ve spoken to countless families in the Springs area and have heard firsthand how badly this relief is needed. I’m excited to get the word out today and make sure that anyone who needs housing assistance knows they can visit the Division of Housing’s website to get started.”

“COVID-19 has affected every aspect of our lives — undermining not only our personal health but our economic well-being as well,” said Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, D-Arvada. “Countless Coloradans are facing eviction or foreclosure if they don’t receive help, which is why I am proud to see this program launch and for families to get the relief that they so desperately need.” 

“Many hardworking families are struggling to pay their bills and make ends meet, which is why we moved quickly when we came back into session to allocate significant resources to help Coloradans pay their rent or their mortgage,” said Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, D-Denver. “I encourage anyone who may need help staying in their homes to speak with their landlord about this critical program or to visit the Division of Housing’s website to learn how to apply for relief.”

“Even before COVID hit, Coloradans struggled to find affordable housing. But now with so many out of work and federal assistance dwindling, people are utterly desperate for relief,” said Sen. Julie Gonzales, D-Denver. “That’s why this new program is so critically important. By giving property owners and renters access to immediate support, we will be protecting thousands from losing their homes and granting families some much-needed breathing room.”

Coloradans can learn more about the program at There, renters and landlords alike can find more information about how to qualify for assistance.

New COVID guidelines for businesses Sat, 25 Jul 2020 11:00:10 +0000 By Mary Jo Coulehan
Pagosa Springs Area
Chamber of Commerce

The state of Colorado and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) have issued some new guidelines for businesses in regards to the new sick time regulations allowed to an employee for the remainder of 2020 and into 2021. 

The other guidelines are for businesses that may have had an employee exposed to COVID-19. The full reports are listed at and

It is important that businesses know what these new expectations are and plan for them if possible — both financially and physically.

Healthy Families and Workplaces Act

The Healthy Families and Workplaces Act replaces the HELP rules which just expired. A quick synopsis of the new guidelines: This is a multi-part act. Some of the guidelines go into effect immediately and others not until 2021 and 2022. 

This new rule applies to all businesses regardless of size until Dec. 31. In 2021, it applies to businesses with more than 15 employees and then in 2022 applies to all employers regardless of size. If employers already provide comparable paid sick leave and allow their employees to use their sick leave as permitted under this act, they are not required to provide additional sick leave. Up until Dec. 31, an employer must pay up to 80 hours of paid sick time if the employee can demonstrate need in one of the following categories: has COVID systems and is seeking a medical diagnosis; is being ordered by a government agency or is being advised by a health provider to quarantine or isolate due to COVID-19 symptoms; or is taking care of an individual ordered to quarantine or isolate or has a child whose school or place of child care has been ordered closed by a public health official. 

In 2021, the required number of paid sick time hours is reduced to 48 paid sick leave hours. This equates to one hour paid for every 30 hours worked up to 48 hours. Employees may use the sick leave for new reasons including mental or physical injury or health condition, sexual assault or domestic violence, or a public health emergency where the business or place of child care has been ordered closed by a public health official. 

Employees become eligible on the first day of work and if an employee is released and reinstated within six months, the earned credits must also be reinstated. Employers can pay the sick time in a lump sum, and associated records need to be retained for at least two years. Employers may request documentation when an employee is out for four or more days; i.e., doctor’s or counselor’s note. Employers will be required to keep records of the sick time allocated either through their payroll system or other timekeeping method. 

We are working on providing a webinar in September to address these upcoming payroll changes and will inform the public when that webinar will be available. 

Possible business
exposure to COVID-19

With the increasing number of COVID-19 cases rising in our community from both resident and nonresident exposure, San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) is very busy conducting contact tracing. This term reflects trying to identify people and places that may have been affected by someone having been diagnosed with COVID-19 systems. 

Does this mean if my business has been exposed that it is automatically shut down? Not necessarily. SJBPH has a series of guidelines that employees and businesses should follow should exposure be traced to that business. These guidelines do include testing, isolating or being quarantined. These guidelines also extend to employees who may have had a family member exposed or diagnosed with the virus. 

It is critical that businesses continue to be vigilant in checking the health of their employees so that a reduction of staff or possible shut down is avoided. It is not difficult to be assigned as an “outbreak” center as an outbreak is considered only two incidents at the same location. 

Business should continue to be vigilant in their sanitation protocols and records. Our businesses have been affected severely enough already. Don’t risk your establishment losing even more business due to lack of sanitation and regulation protocols. 

The Chamber of Commerce still has masks available at no charge for businesses that would like to give some out to people entering their business who do not have a facial covering. The Visitor Center also has complimentary bandannas that are available. Stop by the Visitor Center from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day to get your bandannas or the Chamber from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day to get your masks. 

We are also still looking for individuals that would like to sew masks to contact us. The mask packets have the directions, the material already cut out and bias tape to sew onto the masks to make the ties. Any help would be appreciated. 

The Chamber also has posters from the Town of Pagosa Springs indicating that masks are required to enter your establishment and the town resolution supporting this requirement. The Chamber can drop a poster off at your business, or you can stop by and pick yours up at the Chamber or town administrative offices. 

Be safe, Pagosa, and let’s keep these positive COVID-19 virus numbers at a minimum. 

Veteran’s Corner: VA expands funding for veterans experiencing or at risk of homelessness during pandemic Thu, 23 Jul 2020 21:00:57 +0000 By Raymond Taylor
Archuleta County Veterans Service Office

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it is allocating an additional $400 million of its coronavirus relief funding to enhance the department’s emergency relief response for veterans experiencing or at risk of homelessness during the coronavirus pandemic.

The full version of this story is available in the print edition and e-edition of the Pagosa Springs SUN. Subscribe today by calling (970)264-2100 or click here.

Public Meetings Thu, 23 Jul 2020 21:00:26 +0000 The following meetings are subject to change.

Thursday, July 23

Pagosa Springs Urban Renewal Authority meeting. 5 p.m. See town website for participation information.

Pagosa Springs Town Council meeting. 5 p.m. See town website for participation information.

Tuesday, July 28

Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners work session. 8:30 a.m. Call 264-8300 one to two days before the meeting to obtain the login information.

Upper San Juan Health Service District regular board meeting. 5:30 p.m. Join Zoom meeting:, meeting ID: 969 0492 6293 Phone in using: (346) 248-7799. 

Town Planning Commission, Board of Adjustments and Design Review Board work session. 5:30 p.m. See town website for participation information. 

Friday, July 31

Pagosa Springs Town Council work session. 5 p.m. See town website for participation information.

Monday, Aug. 3

Pagosa Peak Open School Board of Directors regular meeting. 5 p.m., 7 Parelli Way.

Public meeting information should be sent to with “Public Meeting” in the subject line. The deadline is noon Monday each week prior to publication for that week’s issue.

COVID-19 update: Seven new cases reported in single day Thu, 23 Jul 2020 10:59:46 +0000 By Randi Pierce
Staff Writer

As of noon Wednesday, Archuleta County had 25 total positive cases of COVID-19 among residents, with eight cases reported as recovered by San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH).

Archuleta County had eight cases from April 17 to June 29, with cases tripling since. Seven new cases were posted on SJBPH’s data dashboard for Archuleta County Wednesday, bringing the count to 25 cases among residents.

From Tuesday to Wednesday, SJBPH reported 19 new total cases on its dashboard between both counties it serves: six for Archuleta County, 11 for La Plata County, and a new nonresident positive in each Archuleta and La Plata counties.

Wednesday’s update revealed 25 nonresidents who have tested positive in Archuleta County, though the website acknowledges that figure may not include all the nonresidents positives tested in Archuleta County.

SJBPH’s figure, according to the agency’s website, “includes cases who were visiting from another country, state or county in Colorado. This will include any cases that are reported to SJBPH and were tracked or investigated by the team. This will not include cases who live in La Plata county but sought medical care in Archuleta.”

Regional cumulative case counts

As of noon on Wednesday, La Plata County was reported as having 179 cases (with two deaths among cases). As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, Conejos County was reported as having 21, Rio Grande County logged 84 (with two deaths), Mineral County had 17 and Hinsdale County was listed as having three.

Neighboring and near Archuleta County to the south, Rio Arriba County, N.M., listed 251 cases (with 44 recovered and one death), and San Juan County, N.M., listed 2,861 cases (with 1,625 recovered and 176 deaths) as of Tuesday afternoon.

The Jicarilla Apache Nation, which largely falls within Rio Arriba County, had announced 177 cases as of 3 p.m. July 21, with 101 recovered and two deaths.

Due to community spread within the Jicarilla Apache Nation, the nation announced that a stay-at-home order will be in effect from 9 p.m. July 26 through 5 a.m. on Aug. 10.

Mask order in effect, last call changed

Following an executive order by Gov. Jared Polis on July 16, Colorado is now under a mandatory mask order.

Per the executive order, anyone in Colorado older than 10 years old must wear a face covering over their nose and mouth when entering or moving within any public indoor space. 

“Wearing a mask is an easy and highly effective way to significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19. The more we wear masks, the safer we will be and the stronger our economy will grow,” Polis said while announcing the executive order. “Unfortunately, this pandemic is far from over, cases are up, and we have to find a way to live sustainably while protecting ourselves and those around us. Masks are the ticket to the Colorado we love and a critical part of supporting Colorado’s economy and prosperity. The best way to support Colorado workers and businesses right now is to wear a mask. I’ve said this from the beginning, and it’s still true today: Together, we will get through this.”

Per the state, “A public indoor space is defined as any enclosed indoor area that is publicly or privately owned, managed or operated to which individuals have access by right or by invitation, expressed or implied, and that is accessible to the public, serves as a place of employment, or is an entity providing services.”

The definition of public indoor space does not mean a person’s residence, hotel room or residential room for students at an educational facility, the state notes.

Individuals 10 years old and younger, and those who cannot medically tolerate a face covering, are exempt from the order. 

On Tuesday, Polis announced another change across the state due to coronavirus: For the next 30 days, the last call for alcohol will be at 10 p.m. instead of 2 a.m.

Exempted activities

According to the state, individuals performing the following activities are also exempt from the requirements of the executive order requiring face coverings while the activity is being performed:

• Individuals who are hearing impaired or otherwise disabled or who are communicating with someone who is hearing impaired or otherwise disabled and where the ability to see the mouth is essential to communication;

• Individuals who are seated at a food service establishment;

• Individuals who are exercising alone or with others from the individual’s household and a face covering would interfere with the activity;

• Individuals who are receiving a personal service where the temporary removal of the face covering is necessary to perform the service;

• Individuals who enter a business or receive services and are asked to temporarily remove a face covering for identification purposes;

• Individuals who are actively engaged in a public safety role such as law enforcement, firefighters, or emergency medical personnel;

• Individuals who are officiating at a religious service; or

• Individuals who are giving a speech for broadcast or an audience.

“To protect workers, customers, and the community, no business serving the public in a Public Indoor Space may provide service to a customer or allow a customer to enter or move within that Public Indoor Space, unless the customer is wearing a face covering,” a press release states.

During the same press conference, Polis noted that the state would take a two-week pause on issuing any new variances to counties, and noted that counties that had previously certified for Protect Our Neighbors could choose to become exempt from the order.

Archuleta County remains under Safer at Home and in the Vast, Great Outdoors. 

What if you don’t wear a mask?

The executive order states, “Any individual who knowingly enters or remains in a Public Indoor Space in violation of the terms of this Executive Order may be subject to civil or criminal penalties, including but not limited to prosecution for trespass.”

According to the state’s website, if you refuse to wear a mask as required in the executive order, you are violating a Colorado law and are subject to civil or criminal penalties.

If you try to enter a store without a mask, you may be prosecuted for trespassing, it notes.

Pagosa Springs Town Manager Andrea Phillips noted in an email to The SUN that the town, including Pagosa Springs Police Department (PSPD), will enforce the order and will be responding to complaints.

Phillips reported that the town is reminding people of the mandate through ads in local media, and on digital message boards at each end of town, and the Pagosa Springs Area Chamber of Commerce is also sharing the messages, as well as the tourism department.

“Per the order, businesses are required to refuse entry to anyone 11 yrs and older not wearing a face covering (with medical exemption considered of course). If the business is not able to get the person to comply with the Governor’s order, and can’t get them to leave, the business owner can file a complaint with PD and request the offender be removed from the business. Our Police Dept can charge them with trespassing,” she explained.

She further clarified that PSPD officers will not be enforcing the wearing of masks within businesses, but will respond to businesses.

“It is the business owner’s responsibility. If their patrons won’t wear it and refuse to leave, then PD can respond to a request for a trespass charge,” she wrote.

Similarly, Archuleta County Sheriff Rich Valdez noted that while mask calls will not be a high priority, his department will respond to trespass and disorderly conduct calls like normal.

“We want people to respect each other’s decision to wear a mask or not wear a mask,” Valdez said, noting that his deputies will respond and provide support, but that enforcing mask-wearing comes with challenges, including his office’s minimal staffing.

Valdez further urged people to think before getting into an altercation over a mask that could take resources away from other emergencies.


Director outlines tourism climate amid COVID-19 pandemic Thu, 23 Jul 2020 10:58:51 +0000 By John Finefrock

Staff Writer

In an interview Wednesday morning, Jennifer Green, executive director of tourism for Visit Pagosa Springs, provided an update on the general tourism climate in the area amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The full version of this story is available in the print edition and e-edition of the Pagosa Springs SUN. Subscribe today by calling (970)264-2100 or click here.


July 22 COVID-19 case summary: Up six new resident cases, one nonresident case Wed, 22 Jul 2020 19:15:22 +0000