Getting the yellow light
San Juan Basin announces phased approach to re-opening starting May 8

Getting the yellow light

A smattering of activity returns to Main Avenue on Tues., April 28. After weeks of looking like a ghost town, SJBH has ordered that some local non-essential businesses can start re-opening next week under strict guidelines.

Missy Votel - 04/28/2020
This week, San Juan Basin Public Health Department gave local businesses a clearer picture of how and when to re-open. Called “Safer La Plata,” the order calls for delaying opening until May 8 of certain non-essential local businesses, including hair salons, tattoo parlors, dog groomers, massage therapists, personal trainers, retail stores, and non-essential offices. Businesses that open must adhere to strict social distancing, infection control and other precautions and certify that they can carry out such precautions.
“San Juan Basin Public Health’s highest priority is to protect the health and safety of the people we serve,” SJBPH Executive Director Liane Jollon said. “This order will help protect La Plata County residents from COVID-19 as the agency continues to work aggressively with the community to mitigate the spread of the virus and to begin re-opening our economy.”
The order comes on the heels of  Gov. Jared Polis’ “Safer-at-Home” executive order, issued last week, which allowed for the opening of curbside and delivery retail, real estate showings, and medical and dental procedures starting Mon., April 27. The Governor’s order gave local jurisdictions leeway in adjusting re-openings based on conditions in their own communities.
According to SJBH, the decision is based on data that shows, while COVID-19 cases are leveling off locally, parts of the region, such as San Juan County, N.M., are still seeing increases in cases. As of Tuesday, La Plata County has 61 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and no deaths. San Juan County, N.M., had 463 cases and 35 deaths, with the Navajo Nation being especially hard hit.
“While La Plata County has demonstrated a downward trend in new cases, we still see substantial increases in cases just to our south,” Jollon said. “Our residents travel frequently for work and essential goods and services to New Mexico. The virus doesn’t know boundaries, so it is critical that our local businesses and workplaces are both well-informed and capable of practicing good infection control as we take small steps to re-open.”
The decision to issue the order was based on several measurable factors including:
  • A sustained decrease in new COVID-19 cases in the region
  • Availability of quick testing for people who meet certain criteria
  • Capacity for quarantine, isolation and monitoring of all COVID-19 cases and their contacts
  • Ability of hospitals to safely treat patients
  • Clear safeguards in place for businesses to open with social distancing and infection-control procedures
The “Safer La Plata” order is effective as of Wed., April 29, and includes a phased approach to gradually re-opening the local economy. “We understand that the ‘Stay at Home’ order was difficult economically, physically and mentally for all of us,” said Jollon. “We all want to return to normal, and to do so successfully, we must take intermediate steps. If restrictions are loosened too quickly, or businesses and workplaces do not have enough time to prepare, we could find ourselves with a surge in cases.”
The order drew support from local businesses leaders, as well as the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, which extended its own stay-at-home order last week, the City of Durango and La Plata County.
“The Durango Chamber of Commerce would love to see our members and businesses open, however, we have one opportunity to get this right,” Jack Llewellyn, executive director of the Durango Chamber of Commerce said, referring to “business unusual” as the “new normal. “I compare this to a faucet slowly being turned on and not opening a flood gate.”
Durango Mayor Dean Brookie said the City appreciates the measured approach. “By implementing ‘Safer at Home’ carefully with intention, the more likely we can get more businesses and services open and start our new normal,” he said.
The interim CEO of Mercy Regional Medical Center, Mike Murphy, also warned residents about letting their guard down too soon. “It is important that the community move forward slowly in order to not undo the hard-fought progress to flatten the curve,” he said. “As we prepare to move into the next phase of the pandemic, it will be critical that we continue our collective practices of social distancing and persistent hand washing, as well as resisting the temptation to participate in large gatherings.”
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