A public health emergency was declared Monday morning by several entities in Southwest Colorado amid the spread of the coronavirus.
San Juan Basin Public Health, La Plata County and the city of Durango issued a joint statement that said the declaration was made in an effort to protect at-risk residents from the spread of COVID-19.
The proclamation will allow San Juan Basin Public Health to put additional protective social distancing measures in place, such as canceling large public events, the statement said.
“Social distancing is the most effective tool we have to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and will especially help to protect those most vulnerable to the disease,” SJBPH Executive Director Liane Jollon said in a prepared statement.
Claire Ninde, spokeswoman for the health department, said the declaration may enable SJBPH to access funds for the response that were authorized by President Donald Trump at the federal level.
As of Monday morning, no cases of COVID-19 had been reported in La Plata, Montezuma, Archuleta, San Juan, San Miguel or Dolores counties.
For La Plata County’s part, the local emergency declaration will help the county gain better access to state funding to recoup costs from the impact the coronavirus outbreak has had on the community.
“It’s nothing super specific at this moment, but it puts us in position should the need arise,” said county spokeswoman Megan Graham.
One similar example, Graham said, is when the county declared a local emergency to be able to apply for funding to compensate the cost of staff time that was dedicated to and disrupted by the 416 Fire in summer 2018.
The city of Durango issued a similar declaration, and said in the statement it is taking proactive mitigation efforts to make sure residents are not exposed to the spread of the coronavirus.
Interim City Manager Amber Blake said the proclamation may help employees who can’t perform their duties because of the outbreak. In recent days, the city has closed the Durango Community Recreation Center and the Durango Public Library.
“Depending on how this progresses, (closures) may be more widespread,” she said.
Blake said the proclamation also gives the city the ability to allow for certain meetings to be conducted over the phone that would otherwise be prohibited to do, like City Council meetings.
“It makes us more agile to address community needs, business needs and operational needs,” she said.
There have been no confirmed cases of the virus in Southwest Colorado, Ninde said Monday morning. Still, health officials urge residents to use preventative measures, like washing hands, staying home and avoiding places with large numbers of people.