The Yuma City Council had a long visit with Yuma District Hospital & Clinics representatives during last week’s regular meeting, which again was held virtually using Zoom.
CEO Beth Saxton and Family Nurse Practitioner Heath Horton joined the council to discussion the local situation in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A list of questions had been presented to them prior to the meeting.
The first had to do with testing. Saxton said many more tests have been available locally in recent weeks. The ones that go to the state lab have about a two to three day turnaround for results, though Saxton said there is concern that will increase as more tests are sent to the state lab.
YDH & C also now has drive-thru testing, which began May 11. (See article elsewhere in this edition for more on the testing situation in Yuma.) Saxton told the council that as of that day, there had been 29 drive-thru tests, and the results had been returned on 25 of them with all being negative.
Saxton told the council the hospital district had none 87 other tests, with a total of five positives, three involving Yuma County residents and two Washington County residents.
She also told the council the Yuma hospital has had three hospitalizations, the last being on May 4, and all had recovered. (There had not been any new cases in the county in the two weeks prior to the council meeting, though there have been at least two new ones in the county since.)
Councilman Tim McClung said he sees testing as a key to allowing the community to open up some. Saxton said testing is key, and it is getting to the point where people with any of the symptoms, not all of them, will be able to get tested.
Councilman Luke Goeglein stated that people are scared of the unknown, but noted that 98 percent of the people who die from the novel coronavirus have underlying conditions and/or are above the age of 65. “Maybe people shouldn’t be worrying so much,” he said.
Saxton acknowledged that most deaths in Colorado involve the elderly.
However, she added that the scary part is that when a young person does get it, how long it takes to recover and having to be ventilated, adding that it involves young, healthy people.
“That’s the part I think is scary is that normally a young healthy person being able to handle that with their immune system, being able to tackle it and take care of it,” Saxton told the council. “With this illness, it seems to kind of ravage the lungs, and really take a toll on even our young, but they do have a better recovery rate.”
McClung asked about the county’s demographics. Saxton said she did not have the numbers, but in general thinks of Yuma County as being more elderly. McClung asked how to protect the most vulnerable once the community begins to open up some.
Saxton said it boils down to individual responsibility “not only taking care of yourself but those around you.” She said authorities can provide all the information and statistics possible, but it “boils down to them making the right choice.”
The hospital CEO, also a registered nurse, said she is a big proponent of people wearing masks in public spaces, adding it protects her and those she comes into contact with, as well as being respectful to those who have to work in the public.
“I think all we can do is provide the information, let people know why we think it’s important they abide by the guidelines,” Saxton said. “Then it’s on them to work through it, be accountable and responsible, not only for themselves, but be respectful for the people they encounter in the community.”
McClung asked how many in-patient cases could the Yuma hospital handle. Saxton said it depends, but if a patient needs a ventilator, they probably will be transferred out. Overall, she said the hospital could have up to 22 patients, but it would be a strain on the staff — adding that having to use personal protective equipment (PPE) also adds to fatigue as it takes a lot of work and is hot.
Plus, if nurses and/or doctors begin to get sick “we’re in trouble.”
Saxton also noted the hospital still has other patients.
Goeglein said that if the county would have had more testing early on, the confirmed cases would have been higher earlier, but now would be getting lower, so it is not an accurate picture. He said he might have had COVID-19 in March but could not get tested because he was not exhibiting all the symptoms.
Saxton said the hospital followed the guidelines it was given, but those guidelines have now been opened up and there are more tests available.
The council approved the second reading or an ordinance outlining what can and cannot go into the sewer system.
There was no public comment, but council members had some questions.
Goeglein asked if the city has more information on what it would costs restaurants to come into compliance. City Manager Scott Moore said the city is comfortable with the figures given at the previous meeting in regards to grease traps, which would be $200 to $400.
Restaurants are being given until May 1, 2021, to install safeguards against unwanted items getting in to the sewer system.
McClung expressed concerns about restaurants getting hit with another cost during this difficult time. The city’s Claude Strait said there will be plenty of communication and education with the restaurants about this.
Strait also noted it is lot more than the food service sector, as the city crew is finding petroleum and other industrial dumping taking place.
The council approved the second reading on a 5-0 vote. Mayor Ron Swehla and councilmen McClung, Goeglein, Daniel Ebersole and new member Mark Shay, were in attendance. Dan Baucke and Bryson Chrismer were absent.
Installation of a fuel farm at the Yuma Municipal Airport will take place this summer. The council approved a resolution last week allowing Armstrong Consultants to begin the engineering work, Armstrong also will be doing the bidding process, geo technical and electrical design, and on-site inspections. The total fee to Armstrong is $59,170.
The city also is receiving $20,000 in federal assistance for the airport. Moore told the council the federal grant requires no matching funds, and the money can be spent for any expenses at the airport.
The council unanimously approved the resolution authorizing the execution of the grant application.
• A proclamation for EMS Week, May 17-23, was read by Swehla, the approved unanimously.
• The council approved extending the credit card fee waiver for people paying their utlities and other fees.
• Moore informed the council that Monica King of the Yuma Museum Board of Directors, has contacted him about the city donating more funds to the museum renovation project. The project cost has increased to roughly $185,000, from about $140,000. The city already has committed $20,000, and the museum board is seeking another $10,000. He said it was just a heads-up so the council can consider it before the next meeting.
• Moore told the council the City Hall staff is back working at City Hall, but the building still remains closed to the public. He said he was waiting for the next order from the State of Colorado due on May 27, before deciding what step to make next.
• The sales tax report was encouraging, prompting McClung to ask if perhaps internet sales, which now require a local sales tax, is helping the sales tax revenue due to more online shopping by Yuma residents, rather than traveling out of town to shop.
• Swehla thanked the person who sent the letter about the botanical garden at the Yuma Community & Enrichment Center, adding it is being cleaned up and fixed.
• Goeglein said he hoped Governor Jared Polis would open up the state some next week (now this week). He said if not, the city should consider adopting the Yuma County variance (which was approved last Friday night), and allow restaurants to reopen. He noted other neighboring counties were getting their variances approved. “It’s time we get reopened,” Goeglein said.
He quoted statistics from the Center for Disease Control showing that from February 1 to May 16 there were more deaths in Colorado due to pneumonia than by COVID-19. (It should be noted the first COVID-19 death in Colorado was not recorded until March 13.)
“I believe the elderly should be more cautious, but the rest of us that are pretty much healthy…they should be able to reopen. Do what you need to keep yourself safe. There’s not much impact on youth, we need to get them out…it’s just time we get open.”
He added that if businesses have to remain closed, then the city needs to look at giving them a break on utilities.
Shay, who was participating in his first meeting as a councilman, said there is a need to reopen, but not to get too hasty, being cautious while moving ahead.