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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

First responders taking extra precautions due to COVID-19

By Chris Mannara
Staff Writer
As the COVID-19, or coronavirus disease 2019, pandemic affects the world and country, local law enforcement agencies are taking extra precautions to keep themselves and the public healthy.
Pagosa Springs Police Chief Bill Rockensock explained in an interview on Monday that the Pagosa Springs Police Department (PSPD) has not changed how it operates, “other than officers are being advised to use universal precautions and be more smart about what they do as far as keeping themselves healthy.”
Those universal precautions include hand-washing and hand sanitizing, as well as keeping equipment clean.
“Just, more or less, they’ve been given some more advice about keeping their workplace clean, their cars clean, keeping their selves healthy so that they can properly respond,” he said.
In the event of a case of COVID-19 in the town or Archuleta County, Rockensock explained that the directions to PSPD staff will depend on how severe the situation is.
“If it’s just one case, it’s probably the same thing. If we have something more than that and it starts to spread, then we’re going to have to look at some different options,” he said. “But as of right now, we’re not shutting down, we’re not limiting contact as of right now.”
All PSPD officers have personal protective equipment (PPE) and they are all trained on how to use it, Rockensock noted.
These PPE items include masks, face shields, gloves and shoe protectors, Rockensock described.
“It’s standard-issue equipment. We have it all the time. We just don’t use it all the time,” he said.
If PSPD had to interact with an individual who had COVID-19, the department would make it mandatory to use those PPE items, he explained.
According to a press release from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), law enforcement personnel are also advised to have a trained EMT assess and transport anyone that they think might have COVID-19 to a health care facility.
Rockensock explained that this will be the process for PSPD moving forward.
“That’s with anything we might think of though, not just COVID,” he said. “If we have any idea that somebody has an infectious disease, we would do that first.”
PSPD officers and employees have been mandated to clean all their work areas and vehicles, he explained.
Before and after an arrest, PSPD officers will use germicidal wipes to possibly stop any transmission of germs, he explained.
Archuleta County
Sheriff’s Office
In an interview on March 16, Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) Sheriff Rich Valdez explained that his department is taking extra precautions relating to cleaning and distancing.
ACSO deputies will also be wearing PPE in the event of dealing with someone with the COVID-19 virus.
“We’re trying to avoid contact with people that may be affected. The normal stuff that you would do,” he said. “Our biggest concern is the detention side of it. We’re still working on that.”
As of March 16, the ACSO has “limited contact” with the public, according to a news release.
Many employees will be working remotely and patrol deputies will have an “alternative response system” in place to respond to non-emergent calls and reports by phone or email, the release states.
Emergencies will still be responded to, the ACSO release states.
“The Sheriff’s Office does not want to compromise the safety of our citizens or employees,” the ACSO release reads. “At the moment there will not be any walk-ins, civil processing, fingerprints or VIN inspections [performed] at our office. The closure will carry on through the rest of the week and we will reevaluate over the weekend.”
Those who need assistance can call 911 for emergencies and 731-2160 for non-emergent responses, the ACSO press release notes.
State patrol
Colorado State Patrol (CSP) Trooper Josh Lewis explained that CSP is following the same guidelines that the CDC and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment have outlined in regard to proper hygiene and maintaining distance whenever possible.
“We’ve done a few things such as cancel large meetings, groups, trainings that would have people in close proximity,” he said. “More or less, following the same guidelines and making sure our people are as safe as possible. Not contracting or spreading any type of illness as well.”
Pagosa Fire Protection District
In an email to The SUN, the Pagosa Fire Protection District (PFPD) explained that the district’s administrative offices were closed to public access as of March 18.
Burn permits will be available at www.pagosafire.org/permits-fees/.
Those with questions about burn permits can call the PFPD administrative offices at 731-4191, the email reads.
For other administrative or fire prevention needs, PFPD advises the public call 731-4191 to set up an appointment.
“Our goal is to always be available to the community and our number one priority is Emergency Response. If you have an emergency please call 911,” the email reads.
In an email to The SUN, Archuleta County Combined Dispatch Center Director Kati Harr explained that dispatch has added additional lines of questioning to screen if callers have symptoms of COVID-19.

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