New board holds lengthy first meeting in 2021

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RBC | Newly-elected Rio Blanco County Commissioner Ty Gates was sworn into office Tuesday morning. Commissioner Jeff Rector was also sworn in for his second term prior to the board’s first official meeting of 2021.

Incoming Commissioner Ty Gates (left) and second-term Commissioner Jeff Rector (center) were sworn in on Tuesday. (Right) Commissioner Gary Moyer on the board. | LUCAS TURNER PHOTO

Tuesday’s regular meeting included a check-in with Public Health Director Alice Harvey, who gave an update on the county’s COVID-19 incidence rate, which has increased in the last 14 days.

Harvey said the uptick was partially related to a mass testing clinic last week for returning CNCC students, which identified nine positive cases. “There’s a lot of Meeker cases too, not associated with CNCC,” said Harvey.

Commissioner Moyer asked if there was any indication of the county going to a lower restriction level on the state’s COVID dial. Harvey said she had not received an update from the CDPHE, who last told her they would be watching to see if the county’s incidence rate increased.


Rio Blanco County COVID Stats as of Weds., Jan. 12

Total Cases to Date: 324

Meeker Active Cases: 15 | Rangely Active Cases: 15

Meeker School District: 0 | Rangely School District: 1

Live updates on COVID-19 stats are available at https://rbc.us/606/COVID-19-Updates


Harvey also updated the board on the status of vaccinations in the county. “We’re in a very good spot in terms of our data, we’ve vaccinated 12% of our adult population, statewide that’s [at] about 3-4%.” Harvey added that the county had administered 97% of allocated doses, compared to the statewide average of 52%.

So far vaccine clinics have seen “high turnout” according to Harvey.

Referencing a recent phone conversation with a “Denver resident,” commissioners Moyer and Rector expressed concerns about non-residents trying to come to the area for vaccinations. “I just wanna make sure that those vaccines are being used for people with at least some tie to Rio Blanco County,” said Moyer.

Harvey said the allocated vaccines are intended for residents, and that no one from the Front Range had shown up requesting vaccination. She clarified that certain individuals such as residents of Dinosaur who work in the county, traveling nurses and second home owners would still be eligible for vaccination even if they’re not full time residents.

Harvey described the vaccination planning process as a massive undertaking, noting that with case counts increasing, department employees could easily be spread thin between shot clinics, testing, contact tracing and other related activities.

“But we also have about 10 to 12 medical personnel that live in this county who have volunteered to help with shot clinics,” said Harvey. She said federal immunization funding had been increased to $75,000 through 2022, (specifically for COVID vaccination efforts), and that some of that money could be used to pay vetted medical personnel to help with vaccine clinics. She said although the county does qualify to get contract nurses from the state, she wants residents to be able to get their vaccine from someone local.

County Attorney Todd Starr stated concerns about whether or not medical personnel working for the county would qualify as independent contractors. After some discussion of potential options, Starr and other staff including HR Director Laura Smith and Finance Director Janae Stanworth, agreed to meet later in the week to discuss the best way to manage hiring additional temporary personnel for assistance with COVID vaccinations. The board will also ask department heads for potential staff members who could receive training to help with contact tracing.

LUCAS TURNER PHOTO

During their regular meeting the board also approved 19 regular business items, some of which happen at the beginning of every year. Those items included appointing Commissioner Gary Moyer as the board Chairman, appointing Commissioner Gates to the 911 board and approving a comment letter to Colorado Parks and Wildlife about wolf reintroduction, to name a few.

Road and Bridge Director Dave Morlan shared his regular update including information about a DOLA hearing he would be attending virtually Thursday. He also shared that Terra Energy Partners was planning to drill 16 new wells in the basin.

During commissioner updates, Commissioner Gates shared that he had been completing training certifications. Commissioner Moyer said he attended a stakeholder meeting about wolf reintroduction. Commissioner Rector said he attended meetings about pandemic response and public lands. He also mentioned the potential for Board of Health responsibilities to be taken away from the board, and for community volunteers to make up the Board of Health.

The board went into executive session to discuss personnel matters with Starr.

Tuesday’s swearing in of commissioners, regular board meeting and Board of Health update were all live streamed. You can view those meetings on our Facebook page or, if you are not on Facebook, on our website, www.ht1885.com.

The HT will host a live question and answer session with RBC Public Health this Friday, Jan. 15 at 7 p.m. The event will be livestreamed on the HT Facebook page and website, www.ht1885.com. If you have any vaccine questions you’d like answered, please submit them to editor@ht1885.com.

Watch the full meeting and Board of Health workshop below.


By LUCAS TURNER | lucas@ht1885.com

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