When Castle Rock Mayor Jason Gray received word he was potentially exposed to COVID-19, he shut down his coffee shop, Crowfoot Valley Coffee, within 15 minutes.
The mayor originally planned to close his 20-year downtown fixture for the next seven days at least, he said, while he monitors his health and has his business deep cleaned. He learned later in the day on March 17 the Tri-County Health Department would allow him to reopen sooner, once a thorough cleaning is complete.
The store will likely have modified hours and Gray will return once his quarantine is over.
Gray has not experienced any symptoms since crossing paths one week ago with people who tested positive with the virus causing a global pandemic.
Still, he is in self-quarantine for seven more days, when COVID-19's incubation period would end, to make sure he isn't infected as well.
“I feel good, I really do. I'm self-quarantined because I was exposed on Tuesday and Wednesday, or potentially exposed, to two people who tested positive,” Gray said March 17.
He doesn't know the individuals he possibly had contact with, only that they also attended the National League of Cities' annual Congressional City Conference 2020 with him last week.
The NLC said in an announcement it learned March 17 that two attendees tested positive for COVID-19. Both people were actively participating in the conference, attending workshops and sessions, the NLC said.
Each were recovering at home and under the care of health care professionals. The NLC does not know how or when the attendees contracted COVID-19.
Local officials from throughout the country attend the conference to discuss issues ranging from finance and budgeting to managing homelessness or the general duties of public officials. This year's event ran from March 8-11 in Washington, D.C.
The mayor's reaction follows public health guidelines.
If someone believes they were exposed to a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, they should watch for symptoms, including fever, coughing and shortness of breath for 14 days, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. They should not go to school or work and need to avoid public places.
The majority of infected people will experience mild symptoms and recover. The illness is more serious and potentially fatal in at-risk groups, including people over 60 and those with underlying conditions.
Gray said he's doing all he can to stay on top of his mayoral duties while in isolation, answering calls and emails and staying in touch with Mayor Pro Tem Jason Bower.
While self-isolating, Gray will not be able to attend the town council's March 17 council meeting in-person. He will participate virtually as Bower leads the meeting at town hall.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on March 15 urged the community not to hold gatherings of 50 people or more, and President Donald Trump on March 16 released new guidelines, discouraging gatherings of 10 people or more.
Castle Rock was still holding its March 17 council meeting, but members of the public were urged to submit public comment online by 2 p.m. that afternoon in lieu of attending.
“We have taken anything off the agenda that needs public comment. We want public comment where it's needed and anything serious, we've taken it off the agenda until we can make sure we do it right,” Gray said. “We need to make sure that we have open records and open meetings.”
The town has taken other measures to stem the virus' spread in recent weeks.
Staff are in contact several times a day with the Tri-County Health Department, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state and federal government, Gray said, in order to follow agencies' guidelines.
Castle Rock recently shut down recreation centers and programming and began working with limited staff, among other measures. Staff are also researching how to support local businesses and residents who lose work as the outbreak forces closures of schools, offices and the service industry.
Gov. Jared Polis ordered a 30-day, statewide closure of restaurants, bars, theaters and casinos on March 16, although takeout and delivery services are still allowed.
For Gray, business will return as close to normal as possible once his quarantine is up. The coffee shop will be open for pick-up orders unless the state issues any new mandates, he said.
“I think we want to have a sense of normalcy for sure but at the same time we need to make sure to take it seriously,” Gray said, “and do what is asked of us.”
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