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CDPHE introduces guidance for outdoor recreation, new AmeriCorps partnership for contact tracing

Hiking camping stock photo
Posted at 1:42 PM, Jun 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-03 15:48:12-04

DENVER — As Colorado continues to rebound from the novel coronavirus, the state is looking ahead to the next steps and keeping in mind that while many Coloradans are seeking outdoor fun, the virus is still spreading.

Continued testing will remain a major focus.

During a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment call, Sarah Tuneberg, director of the Colorado Coronavirus Innovation Response Team, said each day, between 7,000 and 8,000 COVID-19 tests are administered at the state laboratory and its private lab partners. The state is aiming to increase that to between 10,000 and 12,000 during the flu season.

And while testing remains an important key to fighting off COVID-19, ensuring a person who tests positive doesn’t spread the virus further is an equally vital focus.

State partners with AmeriCorps, Senior Corps

On Tuesday, the state announced a partnership with AmeriCorps and Senior Corps to enhance Colorado’s disease investigation contact tracing and resource navigation capacity, Tuneberg said.

She said 800 members of AmeriCorps and Senior Corps will join the effort. That includes 300 AmeriCorps who are starting immediately in AmeriCorps’s southwest region office in Aurora, 50 AmeriCorps VISTA summer associates at the Community Resource Center in Denver and Conservation Legacy in Durango, and 100 to 200 Senior Corps volunteers in Denver.

They are all trained, skilled contact tracers who will connect with those who have tested positive and help identify who else may have been exposed.

Tuneberg said there’s a large effort focused on contact tracing because COVID-19 outbreaks tend to spread quickly.

She said the goal by the end of the summer is to have contact traced 95% of the positive cases that were reported to public health departments. That percentage will remain the goal no matter the number of confirmed positive cases, she said.

Recreating outdoors safely as fight against COVID-19 continues

Dan Gibbs, executive director of the Department of Natural Resources, had a simple message for venturing into the outdoors during this time: Plan seriously.

“Pack like you’re going to the moon,” he said.

He encouraged Coloradans to fill up on gas and at the grocery store in their own neighborhoods instead of shopping in the area they’re adventuring in. Check local restrictions, including fire bans, and don’t assume park offices are open, he said.

Plus, he added, continue the measures the public is familiar with now, such as social distancing, wearing a mask when passing another person, washing your hands, and staying home if you’re sick.

Visitors shouldn’t assume they’ll nab a campsite in some places, since it’s a busy time for camping, he said. In many places, including state parks, reservations are required.

A few options have come up in discussions regarding the coronavirus and trails, he said. The Department of Natural Resources is exploring the idea of temporarily making some trails one-way, or designating some for mountain bikers and others for trail runners and hikers.

“Because of COVID-19, we’re seeing a lot more people get outdoors,” he said. “I would say it’s very good for folks’ mental and physical health. But we’re working to try to manage parking (and) our trail system.”

Other solutions may include better signage and limiting the number of people in certain areas, he said.

He said his department is proud to have been able to keep Colorado state parks open throughout the pandemic. The increase in visitation has been dramatic: In Colorado’s northeast region, state parks saw 300,000 visitors in March 2019 and 512,000 in March 2020. Statewide, he said state parks have seen an increase of well over 500,000 visitors.

“It’s going to be a busy summer,” he said.

Breaking down the new safer-at-home phase

On Monday, Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order to transition from the safer-at-home phases to a new phase, called “Safer at Home and in the Vast, Great Outdoors.” The new executive order is effective until July 1, 2020 and may be extended.

Under the previous safer-at-home order, high-risk Coloradans were required to stay home unless absolutely necessary. This new, updated order now encourages them to also enjoy the state’s outdoors space, while still maintaining a safe distance from others.

“Our state has some of the most beautiful natural open spaces in the world and we want Coloradans to enjoy our vast, great outdoors,” Polis said. “While we are all still safer at home, we are also able to practice greater social distancing in our great outdoors than in confined indoor spaces. It may feel like we are getting back to normal, but the virus is still here, and it could surge back the moment we let our guard down. We are still far from normal. Coloradans have to remain diligent, and must continue staying home or in the great outdoors away from others as much as possible, wearing masks when we leave the house, and washing our hands.”

You can read the new “Safer at Home and in the Vast, Great Outdoors” order by clicking here.

The state asked for public feedback on draft guidance for places of worship, personal recreation (including youth and adult sports leagues), and outdoor industry recreation (including guides, tours, outfitters, etc.) through noon on Wednesday. Click here to read those drafts.