Mesa County remains under an Air Quality Alert for Wildfire Smoke in the region due to the Pine Gulch Fire. Significant fire growth, dry conditions, and strong winds have resulted in air quality conditions measured in the orange, or Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups (USG), category for the past several days. Conditions are not expected to immediately improve.
Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) is closely monitoring conditions alongside an air quality team assigned to the fire through the incident management team. The forecast for Friday and into the weekend shows winds from the northwest which will bring durations of heavy smoke and periods of unhealthy conditions through communities including Fruita, Loma, Grand Junction, Clifton, and De Beque. As it has in previous days, heavy smoke could linger in the valley into the overnight hours. Valleys are prone to trapping smoke and other conditions at the surface, and therefore are typically the last to clear out.
We recognize air quality at these levels for this period of time is concerning, especially with concerns about COVID-19 and respiratory illness associated with it. All residents should monitor their health and contact a health care provider with any severe or concerning symptoms, including difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.
The Pine Gulch fire currently does not pose an evacuation threat to communities in the Grand Valley. Emergency Managers are monitoring conditions for the health and safety of our community and will issue an evacuation notice if conditions warrant. Sign up for Emergency Alerts to be notified about an evacuation through the Regional Communication Center here.
All groups should avoid heavy exertion outdoors during periods of heavy smoke. Sensitive groups should remain in a clean air space indoors to the greatest extent possible. Sensitive groups include:
- People with asthma
- People with heart or lung disease
- Adults 65 years and older
- Children and teens less than 18 years
- Pregnant women
Monitoring conditions around you can provide information to help inform decisions. Check community-sourced Purple Air monitors to see recent air quality readings in an area near you. A link is provided on the MCPH website.
Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) continues to lead the way in reopening and was granted another variance from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to continue to reopen businesses with health and safety as a major focus. The Mesa County Board of Public Health approved Public Health Order 2020-03, Safer at Home – Phase 2, effective as of 12:01 a.m. May 24, 2020.
“This is the logical next step,” Jeff Kuhr, Mesa County Public Health Executive Director said. Businesses looking to expand operations or to reopen are asked to complete an online application to show they have social distancing, cleaning procedures, and other health and safety practices in place. The steps outlined in the application help businesses think through best practices for implementation. The form, available on our website, can be completed at the convenience of business owners or managers.
This process allows businesses to implement health and safety procedures in their establishment, instead of MCPH deciding which specific industry or activity should open or remain closed. “While some restrictions remain, I feel good about this step and I am confident our businesses and residents will continue to stay the course,” Kuhr added.
MCPH officials note the importance of residents continuing to meet social distancing requirements. All community members are strongly encouraged to read the entire public health order and outlined guidelines. In summary, changes include, but are not limited to:
- Allows facilities and establishments to open at or expand up to 50% capacity not to exceed more than 175 people in a confined indoor space for critical and noncritical businesses, including houses of worship after submission of an application to Mesa County Public Health.
- Allows gatherings of up to 50 people. Six feet of distance will still be required between non-household members.
- Allows local and personal recreation activities as long as they are able to follow specific health and safety measures.
- Continues requirements for people who are sick and for people who have been exposed to someone who is sick and vulnerable populations.
Through the application, businesses will affirm the ability to follow specific health and safety measures.
Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) has issued a public health order effective 6:00 a.m. on April 13, 2020, that requires critical retailers to implement social distancing practices, including requiring portions of the workforce to wear a face-covering while performing duties where direct contact with members of the public occurs.
The intent of this order is to protect employees and customers and is the latest step to try and slow the spread of the novel coronavirus or COVID-19.
“For the most part, our residents are doing a great job with the use of masks. However, many have expressed frustration; they walk into a store wearing their mask and see very few of the employees doing the same. Some of the retailers are implementing a mask policy and some are not. This order creates a necessary standard for our county that will help close potential gaps, which will help further reduce our risks for contracting COVID-19,” Jeff Kuhr, Mesa County Public Health Executive Director, said.
Under the order, which is an amendment to Colorado’s stay-at-home order, there are requirements directing retailers to limit the number of customers allowed in stores, and implementing measures to keep the public at least six feet apart while conducting essential business.
The order is in effect until April 26, 2020 at 11:59 p.m., but could be extended.
Click here to read the full order.
A new medication drop box location has been added to Mesa County. Palisade Pharmacy, 707 37 3/10 Rd B, Palisade, CO 81526, is the first location to install a drop box on the eastern end of the Grand Valley. The new site is an outcome of a partnership fostered by the Opioid Response Group. Mesa County residents are encouraged to take advantage of this new drop box during the DEA Take Back on Saturday, April 27th.
Recent studies report sixteen percent of Mesa County high school students ever using prescription pain medication without a doctor’s prescription, half of the people who said they misused prescription pain relievers reported obtaining the medication from a friend or relative for free, and approximately five percent of people reported taking medication from a friend or relative without asking.
“How you dispose of unused and expired medications does make a difference, and we know accessibility is key. The new location in Palisade will make medication disposal more accessible for community members on the East end of the Valley,” Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) Epidemiology Program Manager Heidi Dragoo said.
Keep these tips in mind as you dispose of unwanted or expired medications:
- Keep your medicines in the bottle when you return them.
- Don’t crush your medicine – doing so can create a dangerously high dose that could accidentally be taken in through skin contact or breathing.
- If you can’t get to a take-back location or have a liquid medication to dispose of, follow these steps:
- Remove the label or cross out any identifying information on the container.
- Mix the medicine with something that can’t be eaten – like kitty litter, coffee grounds or saw dust – in a sealable bag, empty can or another container that won’t leak.
- Wrap that container in newspaper or a plain brown bag to conceal its contents and place it into your trash on the day your trash is collected.
- Remember, flushing your medications or throwing them down the drain or in the trash aren’t safe options.
- Medicine isn’t always completely cleaned from our water at the sewage treatment plant. Medications you flush or toss into your drain could end up polluting our waters, hurting our environment or harming our food and water supply.
- Human medicine is the leading cause of pet poisonings, and those frequently happen when pets find medications in the garbage.
Click here for additional medication drop boxes in Mesa County.
Members of the media should call or text Diana Williams at (970) 697-4611 or visit health.mesacounty.us for more information.
Mesa County Public Health has issued a No Open Burning Air Watch Alert for Mesa County, including agricultural burns, from 12:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 9.
The National Weather Service issued a Wind Advisory. Winds are expected to be between 25 to 35 mph with gusts 40 to 50 mph. The highest wind gusts will occur in the late afternoon and early evening. Gusty winds have the potential to spread fire quickly and can push smoke into neighborhoods, negatively affecting the health of residents.
Keep in mind, if your open burn becomes out of control and causes damage on a property that you don’t own, you could face civil and criminal charges.
Instead of burning, consider these alternatives:
- Take yard waste to the Mesa County Organic Materials composting facility at Mesa County Solid Waste, 3071 U.S. Hwy. 50. The facility accepts material for composting at no charge and is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday – Saturday. For more information, call (970) 263-9319.
- Compost leaves and grass clippings yourself. This can improve water retention in your yard or garden.
- Rent or borrow a wood chipper for your tree and shrub trimmings. Chipped branches can also be good mulch.
Our team will monitor the situation and make adjustments as necessary.