Boulder City Council Reviews COVID-19 Data and Possible Open Space Restrictions

Boulder City Council is starting its weekly meetings with the latest update on how COVID-19 is affecting the community.  KGNU’s Roz Brown says local health officials are optimistic they’re seeing a plateau of hospitalizations but concerned about the number of people using open space and mountain trails who aren’t practicing social distancing.

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Boulder County Public Health Director Jeff Zayach briefed council on the rate of local infection from COVID-19. As of Tuesday, Zayach said Boulder County had 170 confirmed cases, and 31 probable infections. Boulder has the most cases – 83, followed by Longmont with 51.

A screen shot taken from the 4-7-20 Boulder City Council virtual meeting.

“The average age continues to be 49-years old,” said Zayach. “The total number of residents hospitalized is 51, with 16 of those cases under the age of 60. The number of those recovered is 97, and there are 23 pending disease investigations,” he said.

Zayach added that so far, five people in Boulder County have died from the disease. Zayach’s update follows the announcement that the stay-at-home order has been extended through Sunday, April 26th. Despite what the Trump administration has said, Zayach told council testing for the virus is far from comprehensive.

“Because we have limited testing in Boulder County, we shouldn’t take these case counts as exactly what’s happening in our community,” he said.

Boulder Community Health CEO Dr. Robert Vissers said Boulder is seeing a slight plateau in hospitalizations and said physical distancing seems to be making a difference.

“We are, I believe seeing a difference,” said Vissers. “I’m sure the curve has been flattened or slowed significantly, and improved our hospital capacity and I’m hoping we’ll see a lower loss of life because of it.”

Zayach also expressed optimism that Boulder County cases may be plateauing.

“Clearly we’ve gone through a peak process – and we’re watching whether this plateau of hospitalizations will continue to decline, or we’ll see another peak,” said Zayach. “The only way to know is to follow the data.”

Boulder has limited gatherings to 10 people or less. Interim Police Chief Carey Weinheimer acknowledged, however, that it’s difficult to enforce if people are gathering inside their homes. In regard to housing, Kurt Firnhaber with housing and human services said there has been an increase in calls from renters who will have trouble paying their rent during the crisis due to a job loss or other coronavirus-related issues.

“We encourage tenants who are having challenges to reach out to landlords on solutions before it becomes a problem,” said Firnhaber.

Concern was also raised about the number of people visiting open space and mountain parks. City staff monitoring the trails reported that only 25- to 30 percent of users were wearing recommended masks. As a health professional, Zayach pleaded with people to follow the six-foot distancing rule.

“I encourage people who can stay around their own neighborhoods for exercise to do so,” said Zayach. “If you must go to open space – if you’re pulling up and the parking lot is full of cars, find another trail that is not so busy.”

The city’s Open Space Department is considering several options to reduce the number of visitors. They include limiting parking capacity at trailheads; weekend closures of targeted locations when the weather is nice; requiring one-way directional travel on several popular trails; making dog owners keep their pets leashed at all times; and increasing enforcement when hikers are not practicing social distancing. Boulder City Council did not take action on those recommendations during the meeting.

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Featured Image Credit: Boulder 8 TV