Broomfield has issued an order closing all playgrounds, bike parks, athletic courts and sports fields in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The order, which received feedback from City Council Tuesday during a virtual meeting, requires social distancing and encourages all Broomfield residents to stay at home.
Broomfield Public Health Director Jason Vahling said the order strongly encourages residents to stay at their homes, and when they leave, to keep a distance of 6 feet between themselves and other people not in their households.
“We’re still encouraging people to go outdoors, use the open space and trails, but again, use social distancing,” Vahling said. “Make sure you’re 6 feet apart, or about two arms length.”
The order still allows businesses to stay open, and is overall less strict than measures passed by Boulder and Denver.
During his update to Council on Tuesday, Vahling said Broomfield had six confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday night. There are discrepancies with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s website and Broomfield’s, Vahling said, but Broomfield has the most accurate information.
Of the six individuals in which the virus has been confirmed, three are male, three are female, Vahling said. One patient is in their 30s; three are in their 50s; one is in their 60s and one person is in their 70s.
Broomfield is not sharing specifics of those cases beyond age and gender. Public Health officials will follow up with people who were in close contact with individuals in which COVID-19 has been confirmed.
“It’s important to know to if you would be impacted, we would be following up with you directly,” Vahling said, including independent interviews and risk assessments.
If Public Health cannot track down those trace contracts, the city will alert the public, he said.
Private labs are now testing and uploading results, Vahling said, which will lead to additional cases in Broomfield.
Public health officials believe someone with the virus likely infects 2.5 people.
A key health message to residents is to self-isolate if they have COVID-19 symptoms, namely a fever, cough and shortness of breath, and to call their doctor and not go to the hospital or emergency room unless they need urgent care.
The ultimate goal of social distancing and other measures, such as self-isolation and the parks closure, is to slow the spread of COVID-19, decrease the number of cases and lessen the impact on the hospital system, including stresses on staffing and equipment so health care facilities can care for the sickest patients, Vahling said.
Through those measures, cities are “trying to buy ourselves time” for the hospital systems to ramp up personal protection equipment they need, such as N95 masks, gowns and testing kits, he said.
Local health officials are hearing from UCHealth Broomfield Hospital that there is a major concern around N95 masks and isolation gowns, Vahling said. Children’s Hospital Colorado North Campus is likewise working to secure sanitizer, N95 masks and test swabs, he said.
Broomfield has received donations of unopened personal protection equipment from residents and organizations, but at this time the city is not accepting homemade supplies. To donate email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A major debate among Broomfield officials has centered on how strict measures placed on residents should be, and how sustainable those orders would be over a period of time when considering resident attitudes and the ability of the business community to survive.
Ward 1 Councilman Stan Jezierski was hesitant to back the parks closure order, and questioned the risk of transmission of the virus from restaurants that were serving customers versus children playing together in a park.
Cooking kills viruses in food, Vahling said, and the ban on dine-in service is aimed at curbing the number of people who gather and spend significant time with each other. An added concern is children playing in close proximity in parks could bring the virus back to grandparents and others in their homes, Vahling said.
Jezierski was skeptical of the need for such an order, and said he thinks it is premature. He said his concern is such measure produce more anxiety and do more harm than good in the community.
Ward 2 Councilwoman Sharon Tessier said she was fully in support of an order encouraging families to stay at home. She encouraged people to get outdoors since it is the “best time of the year to feel the sun on your face.”
“It doesn’t mean staying inside,” just staying 6 feet away from other families, she said.
Tessier said she has been cheered by the virtual meetings —from happy hours to prayer circles and children-led story times — organized on social media groups.
Ward 1 Councilwoman Elizabeth Law-Evans praised Vahling for his work during the crisis and said she fully supported the park closure decision, as did Tessier who echoed an earlier statement that “doing nothing is not an option.”
City and County Attorney Shaun Sullivan said the from experience of those who handled epidemics, such as SARS in 2002-2004, voluntary compliance and encouraging and educating the public were more effective than mandates and issuing citations.
“We’re certainly not going to try to be throwing people in jail,” he said.
City and County Manager Jennifer Hoffman said officials are counting on residents to comply, but if they don’t, restrictions will grow more severe.
Area public health officials believe cases will peak in May, but that could change as the state and communities enact additional social distancing orders and other recommendations, Vahling said.
Testing continues to be a major issue that began at the federal level, Vahling said, and is impacting state and local public health officials. He said he is hearing from the state that Colorado is still a week or more away from being able to roll out more testing sites and kits. Since testing sites are located in virus hot spots, there are none in Broomfield.
Tessier asked how Broomfield is prepared for a “medical surge” and whether the city has hospitals or vacant buildings it can modify to house patients. Hoffman said city officials looked at the old Safeway building, one Tessier suggested “for about two seconds” before it was determined not to be viable.
City officials have been in talk with representatives of the 1stBank Center, who are prepared to open those doors if space is needed, Hoffman said. The Paul Derda Recreation Center is the city’s first landing spot as far as space availability.