San Juan County is calling for residents to shelter in place, leaving town only for essential errands, such as grocery shopping and to pick up medications as part of a public health order issued Monday to limit exposure to COVID-19.
The public order, issued by San Juan County Public Health Director Becky Joyce, also directs visitors to San Juan County to return home immediately and calls for all hotels, motels and vacation rentals to cease operation immediately and to take no new check-ins until the expiration of the public health order, which is in place until April 17.
“I signed a public health order today that I believe will be proactive, preventive and necessary,” Joyce said at a virtual meeting held with several other San Juan County officials Monday.
According to the order, San Juan County Public Health has the authority under state law to establish, maintain and enforce isolation and quarantine rules and to exercise physical control over property and the people in its jurisdiction to protect public health and safety.
“Our objective is not to be cruel, rude or inhumane. It’s simply to protect our village and contribute to reducing the spread of COVID-19,” Joyce said.
The order says minimum basic business operations are allowed as long as social distancing is maintained. Minimum basic business operations include activities to maintain the value of a business inventory, ensure security, process payroll and employee benefits, and to help employees work remotely.
“Residents may leave our town and outsiders may come into our town to do essential business,” Joyce said. “But we politely ask all visitors for nonessential business to pass through on our beautiful and scenic highway.”
Joyce said there is no known case of COVID-19 yet identified in the county.
She said San Juan County had the worst per-capita death rate in 1918 during the outbreak of the Spanish flu, “and we want to do better this time.”
San Juan County Public Health has worked with San Juan Business Development and other agencies to grow a food bank for the community.
It is also offering prescription pickups weekly in Durango for residents as well as making grocery store runs to Silverton Grocery to reduce risk of exposure to those who are at high risk of severe health consequences if infected.
Volunteers are also helping with trash chores for vulnerable residents and also helping with other chores for Silverton and the county’s vulnerable population.
Allowed essential activities under the order are:
Tasks essential to health and safety.Caring for family members and pets outside of the household.Health care services and operations for home-based seniors, children and others in need.Government services, such as first responders, essential infrastructure and courts of law.Food banks, grocery stores, hardware stores, liquor stores and getting personal care products or cleaning products.Restaurant and schools that prepare food for delivery and carry-out only.Banks and related financial institutions.The U.S. Postal Service and businesses involved in mailing and shipping services.Laundromats, gas stations, auto supply stores, auto repair stores, plumbers, electricians, internet providers and other professions necessary to maintain safety, sanitation and essential operations of homes and businesses.Private commercial transportation necessary for essential services.[html444]Jim Donovan, director of San Juan County Office of Emergency Management, said the coming weeks will be difficult for the county, but he added the county is resilient and has overcome adversity in the past.
“I do want to emphasize that our team is very experienced with this. We have gone through some big disasters before. Whether it be the Gold King Mine disaster, the 416 Fire, avalanches, Red Mountain Pass closing, it is in the nature of our community to get through this. If you look at the history of Silverton, this community has gotten through tough times before.”