COVID-19 Stories: The New Pandemic Bicycle Culture

COVID-19 Stories: The New Pandemic Bicycle Culture

If it feels like there have been more bikes out on the roads and trails lately, you’re not imagining things.  Call it a bicycle renaissance or a childhood pastime revisited, but the COVID-19 bike surge is real. During the past three months, people who haven’t been on their bike in years dusted it off or purchased a new one and took it for a spin.

Even as spring Grand Valley Bike Month activities shifted to online alternatives, local residents turned to biking as a way to cope with the stress and boredom of pandemic-related restrictions. The sudden high demand, however, left local retailers strapped for inventory. Hundreds of Mesa County residents stormed local bike shops, with literal lines out the door.

Ash Jordan, owner of The Bike Shop, passed along his apologies for the waits and explained, “We’re trying to maintain store hours from 9-2 to allow our repair and maintenance employees the necessary time after hours to repair all the bikes that keep coming in for tune-ups.” Flat tire repairs and other types of maintenance are up too.

Chris Brown, who owns Brown Cycles on Main Street in Grand Junction, echoed that sentiment. “Right now it’s taking me about 7-8 days to turn around bike repairs. There are some shops that are backed up for 30 days. I’m grateful we’re busy, but we just keep asking our customers to be patient with us. Our demand is sky high.”

Both Jordan and Brown mentioned that the rise in demand has coincided with a supply chain disruption. Many bicycle parts are manufactured abroad, mostly in China and Taiwan. When COVID-19 initially hit, production there ceased.

Brown reflected, “I keep selling out and finding that it’s difficult to get certain items back in stock.”  Because of the disruption, he’s no longer swapping out a bad bike tire for a new one. “Right now, 26-inch bike tubes are sold out nationwide, which leaves me patching bicycle tires for the first time in 20 years.”

This wave of bicycling with limited inventory has also given way to a new kind of creativity. Brown mentioned he’s seeing less waste as people are repurposing bike parts to meet their needs. “I recently spoke with a customer who borrowed the tire off of his wife’s old bike to make do as we wait for new tires to restock. I’m also seeing people stuff 27-inch tubes in 26-inch tires. The demand plus disruption is forcing everyone to get creative.”

The uptick in sales appears not to have affected the pricier end of the bicycle market to the extent it has more affordable models. Tim Fry, owner of Grand Junction-based MRP, which produces high-end bike components, shared a recent industry survey that found almost 60% of high-end users have put their new bike purchase on hold due to the pandemic, and 20% of those have put their purchase on hold indefinitely.  “The high-end, passion-driven part of our industry is pretty resilient, but during economic downturns it is common to see people focus on smaller upgrade purchases versus complete bikes.  With that being said, we are still hearing that there are shortages within this segment as well, and that it will take a few months for the supply to get back in balance with the demand.”

Whether cycling is a lifelong passion or a newfound hobby, enthusiastic riders are contributing to a healthy Mesa County while simultaneously supporting local businesses. Cycling business owners only ask in return for an extra dose of patience while they do their best to handle the huge demand with limited supply during the new COVID-19 Bicycle Culture.

COVID-19 Stories: The New Pandemic Bicycle Culture

COVID-19 Stories: The Spoken (and Unspoken) Rules of Outdoor Recreation

With its built-in opportunities for social distancing, one of the most popular activities during the COVID-19 pandemic has been outdoor recreation. Trails and, more recently, campsites have seen an uptick in use but unfortunately, this has been accompanied by increases in trash, trespassing, and unattended fires. 

Whether you’re a native, a long-time local or a newcomer to Western Colorado, a quick refresher on the spoken and sometimes unspoken etiquette of outdoor recreation will help us all safely enjoy these outdoor spaces for years to come.

Plan Ahead. There is a place for spontaneity, but it’s not in the great outdoors. When heading outdoors, you need a plan. Check the weather, and be sure you know the specifics about the trail you’re about to use. There are many apps, like Colorado Trail Explorer (COTREX), Trailforks, and Gaia GPS, that allow you to download a map to your phone prior to heading out and track your route even when cellular service isn’t available. In our dry desert, be sure to pack plenty of water. And finally, tell someone where you will be and what time to expect you back. 

Leave No Trace. Outdoor spaces may appear rugged, but there’s a delicate balance to be maintained. Here in the desert, staying on established trails is especially important so that the biological soil crust – sometimes called “desert glue” – is not disturbed. This living soil supports plant life, prevents erosion, and can take years to recover when damaged. Leave plants, wildflowers, and rocks in their natural habitat. They’re meant to be left behind for all to enjoy. What’s not meant to be left behind? Your trash. Litter and other types of waste, including dog and human waste, not only distract from the pristine spaces we love, they also present hazards for people and wildlife and create extra work for public lands managers. Remember, whatever you pack in, pack out. 

Passing on the Trail – Who has the Right of Way? As a trail user, at some point you will find yourself in a situation when you need to pass or be passed. Who has the right of way and who needs to hop to the side? If allowed on the trail, horses should always be given the right of way – move to the far edge of the trail and be careful not to startle the animal. Motorized should yield to non-motorized trail users, and bikers should yield to hikers and runners. Although it is considered courteous to yield to whomever is making the ascent or climb, keep in mind the rules of passing and never expect the person with the right of way to yield. 

If you’re passing someone going the same direction, slow down and let them know you’re approaching, by ringing a bell or clearly stating, “On your left!” Once they’ve acknowledged your intent, you may pass on their left just as you said.

Don’t Feed the Wildlife. This one is as simple as it sounds. Let’s keep our wildlife wild. Please don’t feed them.

Completely Extinguish Your Campfire. The stakes are high for all of us when someone doesn’t fully put out their campfire. With the high winds and dry desert conditions in Western Colorado, a small campfire can easily spark into a large wildfire in the right conditions. Check current fire restrictions prior to making a campfire, and please don’t leave your campsite until you know your fire is completely out—if it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave. 

Keep Your Distance. Social Distancing rules are easy to follow when you’re in the great outdoors, but when you arrive at a trailhead, pay special attention and make sure to maintain physical distance (at least six feet from others) in the parking lot and other areas where groups tend to gather.

By following these basic rules and sharing them with our friends and fellow outdoor enthusiasts, we’ll preserve and protect these treasured spaces for all to enjoy.

COVID-19 Stories: The New Pandemic Bicycle Culture

COVID-19 Stories: Navigating the Storm

How you define your community can vary – your city, your tribe, your church – but one thing is clear: In challenging times, we need each other. 

Positive relationships and a strong sense of community are associated with many types of benefits, including better mental and physical health and stronger academic and economic outcomes. In the case of COVID-19, community has been our ballast, steadying us while we navigate stormy and uncharted waters. We have been tethered together with the unified goal of slowing the spread of the virus and caring for those in need, the latter growing organically as genuine and immediate needs arose. 

Over the past three months, individuals stepped into unique roles to help, neighbors supported each other, and nonprofits filled essential gaps. Our community rallied.  

We could do this because our first responders, healthcare workers, and grocers showed up every day to do their jobs. They fulfilled their obligation to their community with unwavering commitment, and because they did their duty, individuals, neighbors and nonprofits were able to come alongside them and help in new and original ways.

As we reflect on the drastic measures taken across the world to achieve those shared goals, we see that many of the COVID-19 impacts were immediate. Businesses and restaurants closed, hospitals in many communities were overwhelmed, and elected officials were unable to convene in person to conduct the people’s business. Essential and non-essential became common distinctions, and we heard unprecedented, uncertain times, and record unemployment claims as frequent refrains.

And yet, with the same speed in response, community leaders formed impromptu groups to assess and prioritize needs. “What are you hearing?” “What’s the most pressing need today? Tomorrow? Next week?”

The list of needs was telling—eviction assistance so families would not be on the street, groceries so families would be fed, loan forgiveness to keep small businesses afloat, funds to cover household expenses, volunteers to make cloth masks and stuff backpacks with food for school-age children who might not otherwise eat. 

This was going to take a village, or in our case, a nation, a state, and a local community. Past differences took a back seat to solving pressing problems, and the effort of building and leaning on community to help those with urgent needs became the priority.

Through leadership at the state and federal levels, personal protective equipment was delivered to Colorado, student loan payments were deferred, Paycheck Protection Program loans helped small businesses, and rental and mortgage assistance was made available. Colorado’s public utility companies announced they would not shut off power or water if bills went unpaid. With support from Mile High United Way, the Colorado COVID-19 Relief Fund was born to help businesses, food banks, and nonprofits continue to meet their mission through grants.

In Mesa County, local churches cooked meals for foster families, community organizations held food drives, and Caring for our Home Community raised more than $40,000 to support local restaurants while working to solve hunger issues. Municipalities earmarked and approved relief funds, young people made hand-sewn cloth masks for front-line workers, and neighbors grocery shopped for their higher risk elders. 

We banded together and a stronger community was realized—a community that served as our secure anchor in turbulent times. 

We know the storm is not completely behind us. We know we must stay the course. As we move ahead we are encouraged by how our community has risen up to meet needs and address challenges, and we trust we will do it again if and when it’s required. 

COVID-19 Stories: The New Pandemic Bicycle Culture

COVID-19 Stories: Neighbors Respond in a Time of Need

COVID-19 has affected the way we think about many things – how we shop for groceries, how often we wash our hands, and how we go about our workday, to name a few. For some Mesa County residents, the coronavirus has also influenced how they think about community, and the importance of neighborhood connections. 

“We don’t have any reason not to be helping,” said Kristin Lynch, a Grand Junction resident. “That’s just what community is.”

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Lynch, her husband Sean and their three teenage children knew that the stay-at-home precautions might be especially hard on the mostly retired residents of their neighborhood. They quickly typed up a note with an offer of help and their contact information, then put one on each neighbor’s door or mailbox. 

“We thought it was a good way for [our neighbors] to know we’re here and we’re always able to help,” she said, especially since the family still hadn’t met many of the people who live nearby, after moving in about a year ago. Although some neighbors have taken them up on their offer to help, even more have reached out to thank the Lynches and introduce themselves – a connection that, given the family’s hectic schedule, may have taken much longer under typical circumstances. 

“These are unprecedented times, but it doesn’t really matter. These things still need to happen,” Lynch explained. “It’s important to show our kids that this isn’t hard, and this is only going to lead to greater things.” 

Bruce Noble, the president of the homeowners’ association (HOA) in The Seasons neighborhood, said his community responded similarly. The HOA sent an email to all residents early on, asking people to reach out if they have needs or if they are available to help. 

In a time when even a simple unmet need can be a source of stress, these neighborhood connections may be more important than ever. Noble shared the story of a man in the neighborhood who, despite his and his wife’s careful quarantining, became sick. When his wife realized they did not have a thermometer and she could not track one down in local stores, a neighbor simply dropped her extra one off on their doorstep. The man was able to confirm his fever, moved to self-isolation, and he and his wife emerged healthy afterward. 

Some neighborhood efforts, like the Clifton Community Outreach (CCO) team, existed before COVID-19, but the virus has influenced how they function. The CCO team, with support from statewide foundation The Colorado Trust and in partnership with a coalition of community organizations called the Community Transformation group, works alongside other neighborhood residents to create positive community change. Previous projects have included an October 2019 community cleanup that collected 140 tons of trash from a one-square-mile neighborhood. 

Since the outbreak started, CCO’s usual process of face-to-face conversations and neighborhood meetings has been put on hold. However, they still want to hear from neighbors about their ideas for the community, so have shifted to mostly phone calls for their outreach. 

According to CCO member Kim McMurtrey, the group is available to help connect neighborhood residents with community resources, or assist them directly if they can. The CCO and several Community Transformation partners were also recently awarded a grant to offer emergency food delivery in the Clifton area, for people who are unable to leave their homes to shop or get to food pantries on their own. 

Although it’s not the CCO’s creation, team member Elizabeth Christensen points to the Grand Junction Mutual Aid Facebook group as one of the most encouraging, community-minded developments she has seen during the COVID-19 outbreak. The group, now more than 14,000 strong, allows members to post about their needs, information on resources, and items they are willing to share. 

“I’m hoping that with everything that has happened people will see they’re not the only ones struggling,” Christensen said. “I hope there is a sense of solidarity, that we’re all in this together, and if something like this were to happen again it won’t be so scary because we can get through it together.” 

COVID-19 Stories: The New Pandemic Bicycle Culture

COVID-19 Stories: The Role of Public Health

“Public health is concerned with protecting the health of entire populations. These populations can be as small as a local neighborhood, or as big as an entire country or region of the world.” (What is Public Health? – CDC Foundation)

Public Health’s Origins

Public Health as we know it came about in the early 19th century after previous centuries of popular myth that disease was caused by immorality or spiritual ailment. As medical advances were made, so grew comprehension of communicable diseases, their sources, and how to control them. The public also began to embrace the idea that disease and its spread could be controlled, and that it is a civic responsibility to do so.

As the public continued to support government’s role in health, its responsibilities grew to include disease prevention efforts, including sanitation, immunization, hygiene, and regulation. The concept of prevention has continued to broaden from its original scope of disease prevention to that of upstream prevention – working to change the conditions in a community that contribute to poor health – to improve outcomes and quality of life for the community as a whole.

The partnership between the medical community and public health is an important collaboration. Unlike medical professionals whose primary function is to treat illness on an individual basis, public health organizations primarily focus on community prevention—of a disease or its recurrence.  Hospitals and public health departments work closely together to share information when outbreaks occur, slow the spread, and investigate the source of infection through contact tracing. These steps have been featured prominently during the COVID-19 pandemic, but this work and collaboration occur with every communicable disease, including influenza. Testing and immunization often occur as a collaboration between public health officials and medical professionals.

In addition to the vital partnership with the medical community, public health departments also work closely with residents and elected officials to recognize health trends, make policy recommendations, and implement solutions to support the overall health of the public.

Mesa County Public Health

With a staff of over 80 trained experts, Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) works continuously to improve residents’ quality of life and prevent disease outbreaks. They are charged with a wide variety of responsibilities, including testing and immunizations, policy recommendation and implementation, upstream prevention, communication, consumer protection, and education.

Local public health agencies (LPHAs) are formed by local county government, but they are a subdivision of the state. As such, MCPH is an extension of the State of Colorado and is charged with protecting its residents under the state’s authority. Because of this relationship with the state, MCPH also has the ability to create and enforce public health orders under Colorado law. If an order has been issued and a local entity is not following that order, best practices encourage any local public health department to first seek voluntary compliance. However, if the violation continues, a local public health director can bring civil and even criminal charges to ensure the public’s safety.

LPHAs are also tasked with community data collection and analysis, producing important documents such as the Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA). A community assessment is required of health departments every 5 years and nonprofit hospitals every three years. Since 2018, MCPH and the nonprofit hospitals in Mesa County have collaborated to produce a single, comprehensive community report on a three-year cycle. This provides a current snapshot of the health status of Mesa County, brings attention to areas of concern, and fulfills assessment needs for all partners. In this document, state and local data paint a picture that guides the prioritization of efforts in the community. The 2021-2023 CHNA is scheduled for release this year. The 2018-2020 Health Assessment can be reviewed here.

In its consumer protection role, MCPH oversees restaurant and child care licensure and body art and swimming pool protocols/safety guidelines. MCPH also provides the backbone for services such as Nurse Family Partnership and community coalitions like the Community Transformation project, Child Care 8,000, and the Fruita Youth Initiative, to help bridge health gaps in the community and improve outcomes for its residents.

Since 1948, MCPH has provided a wide range of public and environmental health services to Mesa County. Its mission, to maintain and improve health through assessment of community health status, policy development to support effective programs, and assurance of high quality, effective education and service, is the driving force behind its programming and community collaborations.

COVID-19 Stories: The New Pandemic Bicycle Culture

COVID-19 Stories: Protecting our most vulnerable

While COVID-19 cases remain fairly low, we cannot forget the importance of protecting the most vulnerable populations in Mesa County. As we reflect on the news nationwide, most of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks have been within congregate care facilities – residential settings with 24-hour staff, like assisted living, jails, and group homes. We are fortunate to have had no congregate care COVID-19 outbreaks in Mesa County.

We’ve taken very substantial measures in Mesa County to ensure safety within our facilities where contamination and spread could occur quickly and aggressively. Community collaboration and strict protocols have been instrumental in our success, along with the advantage of time to prepare.

It’s imperative that each facility determine its residents are healthy and employees do not have symptoms so there is a healthy and safe baseline as a starting point. 

If symptoms are present, an isolation plan—which has been required as part of the Stay-at-Home and now Safer-at-Home —must be implemented immediately. An isolation plan is exactly what you think when you hear the term, a plan to effectively isolate the sick resident in a safe manner so as not to contaminate others and spread the virus. Partial isolation is already being implemented at congregate care facilities, even in those where no disease is detected, because congregate dining and socializing are not allowed during this time. In most cases, meals are being delivered and consumed in the residents’ personal rooms. This also means that visitors have been limited and, in some cases, not allowed at all if the resident already suffers from a compromised immune system or has respiratory problems. 

Isolation has been a difficult reality for many residents who live in senior congregate care facilities. As the trend in car parades has grown to celebrate birthdays and send well wishes to teachers or friends, employees at long term care facilities have started organizing parade routes outside residents’ windows as a creative way to connect and bring good cheer at a safe distance.

Each time employees return to the facility for a shift, they pose a new risk to the residents they serve. In an effort to mitigate that risk, employees, as well as vendors and other essential workers necessary to run these facilities, must undergo a health screening prior to entry. Some facilities are taking temperatures as part of that screening, as one of the most common symptoms of COVID-19 is a fever. Once employees and essential workers are cleared to enter, masks must be worn at all times and their movement within the facility is limited to relevant areas, to avoid cross-contamination if an employee or resident were to become sick. 

Residents are also screened frequently, and each facility must have an approved transportation plan ready to be implemented should any resident develop severe symptoms that require hospitalization.

Mesa County Public Health has a team dedicated to working with congregate care partners in the community to ensure they have the guidance they need to continue to successfully follow protocols. It is our combined goal to protect the most vulnerable residents from the devastating effects of COVID-19, and we’re fortunate that we have had successful collaboration every step of the way.

For more information on congregate care guidance from the state, please visit: Safer at Home, Guidance for Long Term Care Facilities and other Congregate Care