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Anything But Normal: What 'Safer-At-Home' Means To The Roaring Fork Valley

Sue Sharpe

Colorado is slowly lifting restrictions on retailers, salons and other businesses. It's part of the state's transition from Stay-at-Home to Safer-at-Home, a move that Governor Jared Polis said is meant to help the state enter a more sustainable, long-term phase of social distancing during the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

Under the different stages of the new order, retail businesses can open for curbside delivery. Elective medical and dental surgeries can take place. Salons can serve clients, and young children can return to daycares. 

This can only happen if businesses take precautions to protect employees and customers. That means business owners face challenges like obtaining masks and protective gear, and maintaining six feet between people when possible. Despite that, some business owners welcome the chance to reopen.  

As part of our series “Anything But Normal,” Aspen Public Radio reporters talked with business owners and residents around the Roaring Fork Valley about their hopes, concerns and the difficult choices they're making as they transition to the Safer-at-Home stage. 

You can listen to them share their thoughts on the state’s slow reopening - in their own words - below. 

Sue Sharpe, Owner of Confetti Designs in Glenwood Springs

Credit Sue Sharpe
Sue Sharpe owns Confetti Design in Glenwood Springs. She says deciding to reopen her store was a difficult decision. She'll take precautions to protect customers, and provide curbside service for anyone uncomfortable with coming into the store.

Garfield County and many other areas in the state are allowing non-essential businesses to reopen their doors Monday, May 4. 

Sue Sharpe, the owner of Confetti Design, a women’s clothing store in Glenwood Springs, said she will be open for business next week, but it was a hard decision to make. She said she wants to make sure her employees and customers are safe, but needs the business. Shoppers will be required to wear masks and social distance, and  Sharpe will offer curbside pick-up and delivery if customers do not want to come into the store.

Brenda Rivera, Residential Manager

Credit Brenda Rivera
Three-year-old Lucy Rivera's (left) day care is reopening, but she won't be going back anytime soon. Her family lives with and cares for an autistic man with a history of pneumonia that makes him more vulnerable to COVID-19.

Brenda Rivera shares her thoughts on keeping her young daughter home from day care, even though the facility is open again. She says the hardest part is the uncertainty of knowing when her daughter will be able to return.

Carbondale resident Brenda Rivera and her husband have been working from home while they care for their three-year old daughter Lucy. The Riveras also live with and care for an autistic man with a history of pneumonia, which makes him particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. Lucy’s daycare has re-opened, but the Riveras can’t risk Lucy bringing home the virus, even though her day care is taking precautions like temperature checks at the door and masks for children three and older.

Amanda Wagner President of The Aspen Clinic, and Kate Lokken, Performance Center Director 

Credit Amanda Wagner
Kate Lokken (left) and Amanda Wagner (right) work out in The Aspen Clinic, a Basalt fitness center that welcomed back personal training clients on Monday, April 27, and reopened for normal business hours under Colorado’s Safer-at-Home rules on Wednesday, April 29.

When The Aspen Clinic closed due to COVID-19 in mid-March, the Basalt fitness center switched to virtual classes for members. TAC will continue to offer those online classes, but the gym welcomed back personal training clients on Monday, April 27, and returned to normal business hours on Wednesday, April 29. Reopening, however, has meant developing a new set of rules that mandate social distancing.

TAC’s performance center director and personal trainer, Kate Lokken, says that working within Safer-at-Home rules for reopening means smaller class sizes, personal gym hours and educating members about disinfecting their equipment after each use. Above all, she thinks that everyone needs to be flexible as they work through the new rules.

The overall reception from members has been positive. TAC's President Amanda Wagner says employees have embraced the new guidelines and are ready to come back to work. 

The Aspen Clinic’s president and personal trainer Amanda Wagner says that her staff has been monitoring their health over the course of the stay-at-home order and are ready to get back to work. She anticipates some gym members will continue to stay home, but many have supported reopening and expressed interest in getting back in the gym.

Michael Leonetti, owner of Tresses Day Spa in Glenwood Springs

Credit Michael Leonetti
Michael Leonetti, owner of Tresses Day Spa in Glenwood Springs, will allow one client in his salon at a time starting Monday, May 4. He says he'll do simple processes and cuts in order to limit the amount of time clients are in his store.
Leonetti will have several new precautions in place under the “Safer-at-Home” order. He’ll screen his clients, asking if they’ve been sick in the past month. Only one person will be allowed in the shop at a time. And Leonetti will be working around the facemasks that all customers are required to wear.

Michael Leonetti can’t wait to get back to work. Monday, personal services like salons can reopen in Garfield County and Leonetti will once again welcome clients to his salon Tresses Day Spa in Glenwood Springs. He says he missed his regular customers and the socializing that comes with his job. He estimates that he has lost nearly $9,000 in revenue since his salon was ordered to close last month. 

Andrew Turchin, Dentist

Credit Andrew Turchin
Aspen-based dentist Dr. Andrew Turchin worries extra equipment and social distancing measures will make it harder to connect and communicate with patients.

Dentist Andrew Turchin says he’s stepping up protective and sanitary measures for when he returns to face-to-face appointments, but he’s worried that might get in the way of communicating with patients.

It’s not easy to practice dentistry over the phone, but Aspen-based Dr. Andrew Turchin has had to resort to virtual consultations during the era of stay-at-home orders. Under new statewide rules that went into place on April 27, dental offices were some of the first businesses allowed to reopen, but county rules and guidance from the Colorado Dental Association aren’t as clear. Now, Turchin is planning a return to face-to-face appointments, and there will be no shortage of protective gear between him and patients. 

Turchin said he’ll practice social distancing and he won’t shake hands or hug longtime patients. When patients are in the chair, there will be layers of protection between them and the dentist – a mask, a face shield, gloves and a gown. Turchin said it’ll be hard for people to see his face and expressions, which he worries might get in the way of communication.

Tito Gamboa, Manager at El Korita Mexican Restaurant in Willits 

Credit Tito Gamboa
Employees at El Korita Mexican restaurant in Willits have been busy with take-out and delivery since March. Tito Gamboa, the manager of the restaurant, says they’ve had a spike in to-go orders over the last week and are working hard to keep customers and staff safe.

Tito Gamboa manages El Korita restaurant in Willits. His parents, Beto and Lupe Gamboa, started the business 22 years ago. El Korita has offered takeout and delivery since Colorado Gov. Jared Polis ordered all restaurants to close in-house dining in March

As the valley slowly reopens under the Governor's new “Safer-At-Home” order, Gamboa said there’s been a spike in to-go orders. El Korita has been working hard to meet the demand, and follow local health protocols like wearing masks and gloves to keep their staff and customers safe. 

El Korita restaurant manager, Tito Gamboa, says his staff have been following a strict safety protocol since they pivoted to takeout and delivery in March. Current measures include working in staggered shifts, routine cleanings and wearing gloves and face masks.

Last week, the governor said a phased reopening of restaurants with reduced seating capacity could start as soon as mid-May. That’s if there isn’t a spike in COVID-19 cases during the reopening of other businesses such as retailers, gyms and daycares. Gamboa said he and his staff miss their customers and the welcoming atmosphere at El Korita, but their top priority is to keep the community safe. 

Tito Gamboa, the manager of El Korita Mexican Restaurant, says they could reopen to in-house dining in the next few weeks or in the coming months as long as there aren’t spikes in COVID-19 cases.

Contributor Christin Kay is passionate about the rich variety of arts, cultural experiences and stories in the Roaring Fork Valley. She has been a devotee of public radio her whole life. Christin is a veteran of Aspen Public Radio, serving as producer, reporter and interim news director.
Alex is KUNC's reporter covering the Colorado River Basin. He spent two years at Aspen Public Radio, mainly reporting on the resort economy, the environment and the COVID-19 pandemic. Before that, he covered the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery for KDLG in Dillingham, Alaska.
Kirsten was born and raised in Massachusetts, and has called Colorado home since 2008. She moved to Vail the day after graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2011. Before relocating to Basalt in 2020, she also spent a year living in one of Aspen’s sister cities, Queenstown, New Zealand.
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