Community Forum On Coronavirus Crisis

Community and Regional Leaders Offer Advice For Battling Coronavirus Threat

~ by Rick Langenberg ~


A wide range of regional and local leaders partook in a lively all-virtual webinar, hosted by the Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce last week, to discuss ways to combat the coronavirus epidemic.


Among the lineup included Teller County Commission Chairman Marc Dettenrieder, Woodland Park City Manager Darrin Tangeman, Teller County Human Services Director Kim Mauthe, Public Health Director Jacque Revello, public relations and advertising expert Mike Perini and several representatives from the Pikes Peak Workforce Center and the Small Business Development Center.

Despite the small population size of Teller County, local leaders  made it clear that the region is prepared to win the battle against CODVID-19 with solid team work, resiliency and a good plan.

Teller County Commission Chairman Marc Dettenrieder

“We have had a team that has done an incredible job,” said Dettenrieder, when explaining the response efforts. The commissioner gave a brief overview of the new rules in place with safer-at-home order, made by Governor Jared Polis.

Currently, the commissioner said Teller County is reviewing the possibility of seeking a local variance from certain restrictions, a step that a number of Colorado counties are embarking on. The state has issued a nearly 35-page guideline for the various rules for businesses, seeking to reopen. “We want to look at the possibilities,” said Dettenrieder. However, he didn’t reveal any specifics, but said their  (coronavirus response) team was looking at seeking relief from some of the state rules and prohibitions. The El Paso County Commissioners have taken a similar step.

“We will not be more restrictive,” conceded Dettenrieder, in discussing the new standards released.

Through the governor’s new orders, the state of Colorado has allowed businesses to reopen on a gradual basis, such as retail, non-essential services, hair salons, tattoo shops and much more.  But they must abide by strict regulations in the process, with firm social distancing measures and requirements for masks for employees and customers in most cases.

And still, many questions persist about area eateries and bars, which still can only offer take-out service. Operators of these types of establishments say they are only garnering a fraction of the business they normally obtain. Bars and restaurants may be able to offer dine-in service by the middle of the month, but no exact ruling has been made pertaining to this issue.  Also, these establishments would have to undergo many changes in their operations.

Dettenrieder also stated that through the state orders, casinos must remain closed through May. This has ignited shock waves throughout Cripple Creek, as about 2,000 workers are employed at local gaming establishments. And this doesn’t include workers of the many small businesses associated with limited stakes gambling in  Cripple Creek. Gaming is also highly tied to tourism, which has taken a major hit.

COVID-19 Threat  Still Alive

However, the dangers that many Tellerians still face from the coronavirus threat was a theme heavily echoed at last week’s webinar.  “This is a major impact on our life,” said Revello. “This is a novel situation. It has been rapidly evolving.”

The health director cited the horrific national statistics, with more than 60,000 coronavirus-related deaths in the United States and more than 1 million cases. The death toll in Colorado from the epidemic has neared the 1,000 mark.

According to Revello, the main problem with COVID-19 is that those who are inflicted with the epidemic probably won’t notice their symptoms for two to three days. “The end is not in sight,” said the Teller public health director. She believes that a continuation of the epidemic will occur in Teller County for a number of months.

That said, she conceded a balance must occur between health and economic concerns. This could mean more testing and precautions once the county is opened up a little more, according to Revello.

Tangeman, meanwhile, told webinar viewers that the city of Woodland Park is open for business, only with a slightly different approach. “We are continuing to do business in the city,” said Tangeman. He also indicated that city hall will feature more employees this week, as city hall gradually reopens its doors to the public. However, he stated that city parks and playgrounds will remain closed.

He also said the city is putting a hold on penalties for utility payment not being made, and for certain tax payments, such as lodging. The same is true for business license payments.

Tangeman also offered the most interesting virtual presentation during last week’s meeting. Unlike other presenters, who were mostly shown at their home or office, he was situated outside in front of the city hall building.

Several other presenters, Traci Marques and Cury Arcarese, also touted the advantages of the Pikes Peak Workforce Center and the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center. The associated websites for these organizations offer a plethora of information for future job searching techniques and consultant information.

Mauthe, meanwhile, mentioned the many social service programs available for individuals encountering hard times, and the coordination that is occurring with a slew of nonprofit groups, such as the Teller Senior Coalition. That said, she admitted the new unemployment figures are staggering.

Perini, who runs his own public relations and advertising company, meanwhile, closed up the webinar with some basic promotional tips.

“This is not the time to be shy,” said Perini. He advised local business operators to turn their reopening activity into a major event, which should be highlighted by the media and on Facebook and through their internal websites and with posters/signs. He urged business operators to contact the local media for possible stories on their reopening plans.

He also advised businesses to make contacts with three or so other business owners or representatives a day to further highlight the message that “we are open for business” and are abiding by the coronavirus prevention steps. He said local businesses could further promote their reopening action by offering discounts.

“Now is the time for a plan to communicate,” said Perini.