As has been the case since mid-March, the San Miguel Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) receives weekly updates from its public health officials and from county manager Mike Bordogna. At yesterday’s (Wednesday) regular meeting, held via Zoom, commissioners Hilary Cooper, Kris Holstrom and Lance Waring were apprised of, among other COVID-19-related topics, a new, monthly community forum that will have its first edition next week.

The community forum, which will take place Aug. 11 at 6 p.m. on Facebook Live and KOTO will feature the county’s senior population and how they are coping with the pandemic.

“We’re looking at staying connected with older people and how do we keep them safe,” county public health director Grace Franklin said.

Panelists will include Franklin, county medical officer Sharon Grundy and emergency manager Henry Mitchell.

According to a recent news release, the COVID Community Forums were created to encourage dialogue for specific groups of the public and provide useful, relevant information while fielding questions and concerns. The sessions will give the public health department another opportunity to connect and aid various sectors of the county’s residents.

“We’re excited to have an additional platform to share important public health information with our community,” said Franklin. “Our first forum will address how the older people in our community can and have adapted to this crisis. We are stronger together and when we hold space to better understand how to support each other.”

Older populations, the commissioners learned at Wednesday’s meeting are “super compliant” when it comes to staying and home, according to Franklin.

Those wishing to ask questions of the panel can send them up to one day before the forum to publichealth@sanmiguelcountyco.gov.

Also, public health officials are asking any seniors to share any advice, tips, challenges and questions for discussion by Aug. 10 to the same email address.

The next COVID Community Forum, on Sept. 8, will focus on adolescents. 

The board also discussed how perceived violations of the 50 percent capacity on short-term lodging are treated by the Lodging Oversight Committee, a subset of the Economic Recovery Committee, an ad hoc group of leaders in the business community that includes, hoteliers, guide services, wedding planners, restaurateurs, ski resort leaders and tourism officials, among others. Commissioner Waring sits on the oversight committee, which fields allegations of “over-renting.”

“The oversight committee remains committed to following up on every complaint,” he said. “I feel good about the responsiveness of the committee.”

He explained that of the numerous complaints the committee has fielded, there has been just a single verifiable violation, that of a property in Mountain Village. That property owner, Waring said, had been notified.

“The other complaints have been baseless,” he said.

Most complaints turn out to be property owners electing to stay in their own units, a pandemic-related phenomenon that has been noted by government officials since nearly the beginning of the first the stay-at-home orders and through subsequent relaxing of restrictions.

“There have been significantly higher owner stays,” agreed Bordogna. “Only rentals are counted toward thee 50 percent lodging cap.”

Though the lodging oversight group had hoped to ramp up lodging to 75 percent by mid-July, a sharp increase in positive cases led public health department officials to nix the increase.

Holstrom reported she has fielded concerns from constituents about the seemingly high number of people streaming into Telluride and the surrounding areas, noting that many of those visitors are day-trippers. She called the potential of limiting those numbers “a big decision,” and a conversation that if it occurred, needed to take place on a broader scale.

“That’s a big decision we need to have as regional governments,” Holstrom said. “That’s a faucet that’s hard to turn down.”

Holstrom also praised Cooper for the consistent messaging that has become expected from county and other officials, and that is, in addition to the five commitments, one of kindness.

“To be kind is a very, very important part of that (messaging),” Holstrom said.

The five commitments include wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing of six feet or more, frequent hand-washing, staying home if ill, and to get tested if experiencing any symptoms.

County emergency manager Henry Mitchell reported that volunteers have been hitting the streets in order to get accurate counts on facemask compliance. The effort, he said, stems from needing to “get past the stories.”

“It’s pretty exciting field work,” Mitchell said.

Compliance figures will be released as soon as they are compiled.

Mitchell’s department is also collaborating with Telluride TV, and will soon be releasing videos aimed at adolescents.

Franklin gave a quick overview of the start of the school year and how each of the three school systems — Telluride, Norwood and Telluride Mountain School — are approaching the first day of class. With so much in flux, schools are planning for numerous contingencies be they online learning, in-person learning or a hybrid of those two modalities.

“It’s a tough one,” she said of the task school officials are facing.

The Sept. 8 edition of the new COVID Community Forums will focus on adolescents.

For more information and to view the county’s revamped coronavirus website go to sanmiguelcountyco.gov/coronavirus.