DENVER (CBS4)- Gov. Jared Polis issued an executive order on Saturday night suspending downhill skiing operations for one week after the cases of coronavirus in Colorado continue to grow. There are more than 100 COVID-19 cases in Colorado and one death.
"Never would I have believed that a global pandemic would force the temporary closure of our world-class ski resorts. I have been skiing since I was four years old. Our family has had a place in Vail for three decades. And, like so many Colorado families, we were planning a ski trip with our kids over their spring break next weekend. Beyond being a major part of our way of life, skiing supports our workers and businesses," said Polis in a statement. "For those of us who treasure living our lives outdoors, sacrificing our fun is the easier part; but for those who depend on employment in our Colorado high country, the uncertainty of how long they will be out of a job is terrifying. It is with a profound sense of pain and grim responsibility that I take the agonizing action that this moment demands. I take solace in knowing that while we will be temporarily closed for business, we will be saving the lives of hundreds, perhaps thousands of Coloradans in the days and weeks ahead."
The executive order directs downhill ski resorts to suspend operations for one week to slow the spread of COVID-19 and conserve medical resources in Colorado's mountain communities. Polis said he will continue to monitor the coronavirus pandemic and may make changes to the executive order.
"The challenges posed by COVID-19 are unique and place significant burdens on hospitals and medical personnel. We are aware of the great cost that mountain communities face if our downhill ski resorts close, even temporarily. These costs will be borne by local residents and businesses, and by the individuals and families who come to Colorado to enjoy our beautiful mountains and world-renowned skiing. But in the face of this pandemic emergency we cannot hesitate to protect public health and safety," the executive order reads.
Earlier in the day, Vail Resorts, operator of Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Crested Butte ski areas in Colorado, and 37 resorts globally, announced that it will cease operations for a week beginning Sunday at all its North American mountain resorts and stores.
Just before Vail Resorts made its announcement on Saturday, longtime Vail Village Restaurant and Bar, The Red Lion, closed down indefinitely. Rod Linafelter, who is part of the bar's ownership group, told CBS4 the decision was based on a feeling of social responsibility.
"I think it's been validated by Vail resorts making their decision and as I said, I applaud them for making that decision," Linafelter said via Facetime Saturday evening. "I think that's the right call right now, given the circumstances."
Much like Vail Resorts, the restaurant will offer financial support to employees during the indefinite closure. Linafelter said ownership will help cover the costs of any employee's COVID-19 tests or treatment.
Due to the closure in the middle of peak ski season, the Red Lion will likely miss out on most profits for the year, Linafelter said. Still, he's heard from other business owners in the village and expects to see more closures soon.
"We'll get through this. It's obviously a difficult time for us in the mountain communities," He said. "I'm sure this is not just Vail-centric. This is going on everywhere."
Eagle County, which includes Vail, has the second-highest number (18) of the state's presumptive positive tests behind Denver (20). Pitkin County, which includes the Aspen/Snowmass resorts, has only two residents who have tested positive, but nine people from out-of-state who are being treated there.
Additional Information from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment:
- Practice good hygiene. Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water. In the absence of soap and water, use hand-sanitizer; use your elbow or sleeve to cover coughs and sneezes
- Stay home if you're sick; keep your children home if they are sick. The illness can last for many days so make preparations now to work from home if possible.
- We advise Coloradans to always be prepared for an emergency-- like a large snowstorm-- and have a plan for your family. Make sure to have 72 hours of key supplies on hand like medications, infant formula, diapers, pet food, etc. FEMA guidance for pre-pandemic COVID-19 preparedness is available on Ready.gov.
- Stay informed with reliable, up-to-date information. People who have general questions about coronavirus disease 2019, can call CO HELP at 303-389-1687 or 1-877-462-2911 or email COHELP@RMPDC.org, for answers in English and Spanish (Español), Mandarin (普通话), and more.
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