Gatherings and events: Next steps in opening up the community

By Mary Jo Coulehan
Pagosa Springs Area
Chamber of Commerce

No matter who you speak to these days, they have an opinion about the current pandemic, our recovery and what is the right way to open our community back up. 

Pagosa Springs has been fairly unscathed by the pandemic; however, with tourism as the economic basis of our community, we need to welcome people to Pagosa, and we need to do that safely and smartly. 

Visitors to Pagosa Springs are asked to be our community partners and honor our passion to remain healthy and safe and uphold the requirements that many of the businesses have put in place. Just because we are reopening our businesses does not mean that the virus has gone away. It is just as important now to be safe than ever before. 

The state will allow opening up another segment of community engagement — that of events and larger gatherings, which experts feel are one of the greatest ways COVID-19 can be transmitted. What can gatherings look like now? It is mostly based on square footage no matter whether the event is inside or outside. The “social distancing calculator” bases safety interaction on 12-foot distances to allow for people passing and moving about and still maintaining 6-foot distancing. This is not always possible and not always necessary if you arrange flow, entrances and exits appropriately, so 6-foot distancing is required. Right now, indoor limit capacity is 100 people per room to maintain “medium viral spread.” Outdoor capacity is 175 people per space also maintaining “medium viral spread.” The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has a social distancing calculator for 6-foot and 12-foot distancing requirements, https://covid19.colorado.gov/social-distancing-calculator-for-indoor-and-outdoor-events. 

Here are some other tips for producing a successful and safe indoor or outdoor event. Enhanced cleaning and sanitizing at key locations: entrances, restrooms, stairwells, light switches. Maintain a guest list or registration list of some kind, such as RSVP or registration (online or in person). Create a queue system with 6-foot distancing at entrances. Performers or competitions should be at least 25 feet from the audience. All performers should be checked for health risk prior to performing. Encourage people (employees, volunteers, attendees) to wear face coverings. 

Liane Jollon, executive director of San Juan Basin Public Health, reminds everyone, “As our local economy begins to enter its ‘new normal,’ it is critical that we don’t become complacent in protecting ourselves from the spread of COVID-19. The virus is very much still circulating in our residents, traveling workforce and tourist population and as we’ve seen in neighboring states, it doesn’t take much for case counts to rise rapidly and jeopardize local health care systems if we don’t take social distancing, face covering, handwashing and good workplace cleaning practices seriously. The best way to sustainably reopen our economy is to practice good public health habits at all times.”

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This story was posted on June 26, 2020.