Grand expectations for the summer
No parade went down Grand Lake’s main street on Memorial Day. Fireworks won’t light up Winter Park’s sky on the Fourth of July. Rodeos and festivals across the county have been delayed or canceled.
Grand County faces a summer that must meet the public health demands of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last week, Gov. Jared Polis’ newest public health order declared that Coloradans were safer at home — and in the great, vast outdoors. While Grand County’s got plenty of outdoors, the order officially canceled rodeos, fairs, parades and festivals through at least the end of the month and probably longer.
Following the order, Grand County Public Health sent out a letter to town and community leaders that said what a lot of people were afraid to hear.
“We don’t think anytime this summer that guidance will allow for things like concerts or rodeos of thousands,” said Brad White, incident commander for the COVID-19 Response Team.
While Grand County Public Health anticipates the state will allow for gatherings of 25-50 people in early July, group sizes associated with many of the events in Grand County won’t be possible this summer.
Lauren Huber, executive director of the Granby Chamber of Commerce, had been hoping that some sort of Independence Day parade might be possible right up until the state said it couldn’t happen.
“We have such pride in our Fourth of July parade that it was a hard decision to make,” she said. “We kept waiting and waiting, hoping we could go forward with the parade.”
Grand County Public Health asked all towns to cancel or “re-invent” those large events. Huber has done that at the chamber by introducing the Hometown Fourth of July. Granby’s Hometown event will encourage folks to have a campout on July 3, whether at a campground, in a backyard or in a living room. July 4 will feature a virtual dance party.
Throughout the weekend, participants can also take part in a Hometown Heroes TRIbute through a virtual triathlon. People can choose three activities to do over the weekend in tribute to someone they find inspiring and receive a commemorative medal.
Other towns in the county have been planning for a similar spirit of virtual, patriotic activities. Not getting to see the community and visitors coming together is hard, but Huber said it was necessary.
“Our strength is going to be found in keeping each other safe and healthy,” Huber said. “Luckily, we live in a place where it’s easy to socially distance naturally.”
White pointed out that a lot of these traditional events were originally introduced when it was tougher getting visitors up to Grand. Now, with all the other offerings here, he said there’s a hope that visitors will still come.
The biggest tourist pool will likely be from the Front Range with national tourism slower this summer. White did highlight the fact that with crowded destinations like Disneyland a no-go, camping out in the Rockies might still draw some out-of-state visitors.
Grand County has avoided overwhelming its health care system so far. That means public health has been able to prepare for the tourists that might bring more of the virus here this summer and avoid a major second wave.
“The summer is looking pretty good so far health wise,” White said. “We’ll hopefully coast through with no big peaks.”
White said the COVID-19 response team has been able to put in various protocols. They were also able to reserve enough tests to quickly react to outbreaks.
For example, White said a construction site had a COVID-19 case a few weeks ago and the team was able to offer testing to everyone involved at the site to contain the spread. That quick reaction and availability of tests will hopefully help prevent the county from being overwhelmed.
“The goal for the summer season is to promote those good practices and prevent contact with people from other regions,” White added.
To keep the county open this summer, group sizes need to stay small, social distancing needs to continue and masks need to be worn when social distancing isn’t possible. And large-scale events can’t happen.
“This is the opportunity to … come together to say this is what we need to do this year to stay strong and keep our businesses open,” Huber said. “We don’t want to take a step back. The decision to not have the parade is really an economic decision — to keep moving forward and not take any steps back.”
The chamber’s plans after the Fourth remain to be determined. Though big events won’t be possible this summer, Huber hopes that this time will allow her to get feedback from the community and start working on a great 2021.
White said that the county expects the state to ask for a longer-term coronavirus plan in the coming months but will begin allowing for more local control. Then the big question will be what fall and winter might look like.
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