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Vail Daily article: Sheriff James Van Beek: COVID shutdown 2.0

As the holidays approach, many are concerned that the increased coronavirus restrictions will further spoil an already stressful year. The pandemic became interspersed with the election cycle and suddenly the virus became a political football, yet people have gotten sick and, sadly, some have perished. So much of it is still unknown, and as a community and a nation, we are erring on the side of caution, at least until we know more.

Because of its uncertainty and how quickly it can take someone from healthy to critical, when symptoms appear, it may only be a matter of days for someone, with pre-existing vulnerabilities, to get beyond an ability to recover.

Given the intensity of the symptoms and the speed in which it can attack and devastate its victims, hospitals are at-the-ready, to serve the community. However, we must keep in mind, that given the size of our county, our local hospitals have limited capacity, which is more than sufficient to handle year-round and seasonal demands, but with the pandemic, and a surge affecting many at once, and the resource limitations required to maintain the safety of non-COVID patients, our facilities can quickly become strained.

In addition, many COVID-19 patients require a lower altitude to ease breathing and the hospitals on the Front Range and in Grand Junction are nearly full, just handling their own patients.

Thus, attempting to slow the spread is more about pacing the availability of medical resources than in actually stopping the virus, which is impossible before we achieve a sufficient infection rate (via either vaccine or herd immunity).

That’s the background to what is currently occurring across the state. However, what most want to know is how the Sheriff’s Office plans on handling these increased restrictions, especially with Thanksgiving approaching.

As I’ve mentioned before, regarding situations that may face Constitutional challenges … mine is not the job of creating legislation; I am the one who works with the community to achieve compliance with existing mandates. As with every other situation, we attempt to handle each situation uniquely with rational judgment and in consideration of existing circumstances. Rarely, in our community, does anyone want to willfully harm another.

The more that people are in direct contact, the greater the chance of contracting the virus — it’s as simple as that. While some question the level of protection a mask and social distancing provide, we urge everyone to be patient because if even one life is saved as a result of your compliance, it is worth it.

While there is no intent to be knocking on your door and taking a head count, we ask that you please adhere to the guidelines, for the safety of all. While you may be in great health, if you happen to be asymptomatic, you may inadvertently connect with someone who is vulnerable, and that infection could become fatal.

COVID-19 mandates vary by county. Eagle County is at orange on the state’s dial. Restrictions in the orange level include:

Restaurants: Up to 25% capacity, or 50 people indoors
Retail: Up to 25% capacity
Indoor Events: Up to 25%, or 50 people
Outdoor Events: Up to 25%, or 75 people
Personal Services: Up to 25% capacity, or 25 people
Group Sports: Outdoors only, up to 10 people per activity
Gyms: Up to 25% capacity, or 25 people indoors, and up to 10 people outdoors
Offices: Up to 25% capacity
Non-critical Manufacturing: Up to 25% capacity, or 50 people
Houses of Worship: Up to 25% capacity, or 50 people

Many of our neighboring counties are in the red on the state’s dial; this may occur in Eagle County, as well. We would need to adjust our behavior as follows:

  • Personal gatherings, which had been allowed for up to10 people from no more than two households, are no longer allowed of any size
  • Indoor events, which were capped at 25% capacity, are no longer permitted
  • Outdoor events are still allowed at 25% capacity or 75 people, but individuals may only be with their household members
  • Restaurants can no longer offer indoor dining, but can remain open for outdoor service, take-out, and curbside
  • Last call for alcohol will move from 10 pm to 8 pm, and bars will be closed
  • Elementary schools may still hold in-person classes; middle schools can do either in-person, a hybrid program, or remote learning. High schools may go to hybrid or virtual learning. Colleges should go to remote classes.
  • Business capacity is capped at 10% and companies are encouraged to have employees work remotely
  • Places of worship must keep capacity to 25% or 50 people for indoor services
  • Gyms must limit capacity to 10% or 10 people per room when indoors. Outside groups must be no more than 10 people.

    It has certainly been a very odd year and it has had a tremendous impact on our personal lives and livelihoods. As we adapt to these changes, let’s remember that the most important thing about this Thanksgiving is that we have a community that cares. In fact, if anyone is feeling overwhelmed by these regulations, please contact the Hope Center’s crisis hotline at (970) 306-4673 and they will connect you to someone who can help. You are not alone in this.

    I am so incredibly thankful to be of service to this amazing community. Soon we will be able to get back to our usual obnoxious selves. Wishing you a blessed and peaceful Thanksgiving.

    James van Beek is the Eagle County sheriff. You can reach him at james.vanbeek@eaglecounty.us.