This letter was sent on Jan. 8 via email to the Pitkin County Board of Health from Snowmass Village Mayor Bill Madsen on behalf of the town council. In it, Madsen implores that the BOH not move Pitkin County voluntarily into the red zone.
Dear Members of the Pitkin County Board of Health:
First and foremost, we want to thank you for your service during this exceptionally difficult time. Your commitment to the community is greatly appreciated. Your skilled maneuvering through state regulations and local data has resulted in our community being as safe of a place as possible. You should be exceptionally proud of your work over the last month. The board’s deft and skilled maneuvering to put restrictions in place that protect our residents and still allow businesses to operate was exceptional.
Your well-thought-out decisions found a way to keep restaurants open (with restrictions) while many other counties in the state were forced to shut indoor dining. Your solid decision-making kept people employed and simultaneously protected the public health of the community. You found the right balance and we are grateful.
Today, the Snowmass Village Town Council is urging the Board of Health to simply stay the course on which you have put the community. Please do not change the criteria for decision-making; stay with the decision-making process that we, as a community, have already agreed to.
Several months ago, this community agreed to abide by the “state dial.” We understood that we were not an island unto ourselves, but rather a part of the larger, comprehensive valley and state landscape. We understood and agreed that not working with our neighboring counties to have consistent rules and regulations caused undue confusion and difficulty for constituents that live and work in their respective locations.
The state has made the necessary adjustments and modifications to the criteria, and they have been applied to all the residents of the valley across multiple counties. This consistency of the rules has helped with voluntary compliance and education in the community, which have proven to be the most effective tool to prevent the spread of the virus.
While our 14-day cumulative case count is clearly too high, the other two criteria used in the dial are at orange or yellow levels. Knowing that the state has deemed Pitkin County to be in the orange level on the COVID dial, along with the other 63 counties in the state, we do not feel the county should impose more restrictions on the community. Please leave the county’s location on the COVID dial to the state.
This is an important time for the Board of Health to provide steady leadership. This is not a time to make rash decisions and change the agreed upon procedures. Community members and businesses have made thousands of decisions based on these agreed-upon protocols. Changing the protocols “midstream” runs the risk of them losing their legitimacy and enforceability.
The town council is purposefully methodical when we change any laws and we would ask the same courtesy from the Board of Health. Steady leadership and a continued commitment to the existing protocols will help alleviate angst in the community for businesses and employees.
I agree with (Pitkin County Manager) Jon Peacock’s statement, “we are not going to enforce our way out of this.” We want to see a strong public outreach program that asks employees and guests to take the pledge. We are all in this together and more rules will not solve our problems. Public education about the seriousness of the situation is paramount. However, please consider enforcing the existing rules more effectively and more vigorously before you consider changing the rules. We understand enforcement is challenging, but we must make it clear to locals and guests:
1. All visitors must be tested within 72 hours of arriving in Pitkin County and complete the affidavit. This must be actively enforced.
2. Restaurant capacity must be enforced at 25%.
3. Caterers and entertainers must be penalized if they engage in gatherings that exceed the regulations on group size.
As a town council, we are not experts in public health, but as duly elected officials, as individuals that face and work with our constituents every day, we do have tremendous experience and expertise in public policy.
Changing the contract with the community, moving the goalposts or otherwise changing how the protocols and criteria are interpreted creates ill will within the community. We fear that a change will cause us to lose the voluntary compliance and understanding we have seen from the community and our businesses to date.
The Town Council of Snowmass Village respectively requests that the Board of Health not change the protocols to move to different levels on the dial based on a single metric and continue to rely on the state to determine where on the dial the county should be designated. The town council strongly urges the Board of Health to continue to stay the course, keep the rules you have deftly fashioned in place, and continue to make decisions that balance all aspects of public health including reducing community anxiety and improving economic stability. We ask that you please think broader than one criteria and continue to focus on all of the metrics that contribute to public health.
If the board chooses to disregard this request and change the rules, we implore you to please keep the necessary flexibility to move the community out of the red section of the dial. Requiring the community to stay in the red portion of the dial until incident rates reach 700, as proposed, will unduly handcuff the Board of Health to make decisions on when to lift any new restriction put in place. Much like the governor did, the Board of Health should reserve the right to open businesses when the Board of Health deems it is appropriate.
Overall, the town council strongly urges the Board of Health to honor the contract you have created with the community and to continue to follow the protocols and health restrictions as informed by the state COVID Dial. Stay the course and vote no to changing the existing criteria.
Again, thank you for your service.