Emergency Manager Graham Tells County, “We’re Working Together as One Solid Team”

Hinsdale County Commissioners heard reports from Public Health Director Tara Hardy and Emergency Manager Phil Graham during a “virtual” meeting Wednesday morning, March 18, in which attendees, staff and commissioners took part via computer and telephone. Tara Hardy told Commissioners Susan Thompson, Sara Gutterman, and Kristie Borchers that Public Health’s newly released, amended Public Health Orders are not the result of fear but rather “a lot of thought” with the goal of capitalizing on opportunities. Those opportunities, according to the Public Health Director, include Lake City’s inherent isolation which, in the instance of coronavirus, has the added benefit of “allowing us time to minimize exposure and practice social distancing skills.” In his report, newly-hired Hinsdale County Emergency Manager Phil Graham also referenced the county’s isolation, comparing the county to an “island in terms of resources.” Graham credited exceptional partnerships from emergency planning agencies in surrounding counties — particularly mentioning the West Region including Montrose and Gunnison, as well as Mineral County and the San Luis Valley. He said that state and federal partners are feeling the strain, “making things all the more challenging for us.” According to Graham, the current biggest stress is the extremely limited number of test kits for the virus and the realization the outlook for obtaining more is slim. Medical personnel are extremely cognizant and have set up a thorough triage for screening before testing. Because of the lack of test kits, he said it is probable that if symptoms are positive, it will be the recommendation to isolate without testing. Unfortunately, he said, there is no treatment or cure, and the virus is typically allowed to run its course. For the at-risk population, however, treatment for difficulty in breathing is geared toward sustaining life and not, typically, actively fighting the virus. He anticipates that with greater cases elsewhere in the state, the medical recommendation for positive symptoms will be to stop testing and ask for self-quarantine. “Our biggest message,” Graham emphasized, “is that we’re working together as one solid team to do everything we can for our community.” The multi-coordination team, he said, includes conferring and regular updates between a multagency group which includes Public Health, Emergency Medical Services, the Medical Center, county administration, coroner, and Office of Emergency Management. Hinsdale Commission Chair Susan Thompson referred to ongoing coronavirus planning the past several days — “it feels like months,” she said — and extended thanks on behalf of the board, especially mentioning EMS, Emergency Manager Phil Graham, and Tara Hardy and Public Health staff. During the commissioners’ March 18 meeting, the county board unanimously passed an indefinite extension of the Hinsdale County COVID-19 Local Disaster Emergency Declaration, and approved the contingency Continuity of Government (COG) Plan.