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Hey, #Boulder. It's on a very somber note that I prepare to live-tweet tonight's council meeting, the city having just announced that it is furloughing 737 employees from April 20 to June 28.
A hiring freeze was implemented before the last council meeting, where city staff discussed possibly not hiring seasonal or temporary workers, but this is far more drastic than what was hinted at April 7.
That's because the city's economic forecasting for the impacts of COVID have changed. What was presented as the worst-case scenario (though staff admitted it might not be) has now been re-labeled best-case: $28M in revenue declines, ~10% of yearly revenue.
I went with the actual budget shortfall number in my headline for that report (after emergency funding was used to fill the gap) bc I didn't want to be alarmist. Maybe I should have been.…
These furloughs represent 38% cut in staff: 13% FTE and 98% of seasonal and temp workers.

They will continue to receive health benefits, paid for by the city. We'll know by June 1 if any / how many of these may turn into layoffs or longer furloughs.
Speaking of furloughs, I know I said I'd have more details on the local journalists' furlough fund I mentioned. Everything is in place except the reporters, who are still trying to work out if they could/will be fired for working for a competitor.
I have one more idea up my sleeve if that becomes the case; I know we could just give the journalists money, but that only solves one half of the problem. The community still needs news.

So, sorry to say again, but stay tuned.
Tonight's meeting is being conducted on Zoom, which should be a million times better than the previous meeting. But we really won't know that until we have public participation, which we don't tonight.
On the agenda: COVID update from health officials.

I've asked for case data by race/ethnicity and I'm told that's forthcoming, but maybe not for tonight.
Then the city response to various COVID issues, a revisit of community benefit Phase 2 and a discussion of initiative petitions.

And, briefly, a demo of the Google/city services eligibility calculator I wrote about last year:…
I feel like I'm forgetting something but honestly my brain is saturated. I took the day off because I just had to.
Yates is leading the meeting bc "something came up" with Mayor Weaver. Not sure if he'll join us.
Jeff Zayach from BoCo Public Health is starting us off. here's the presentation for this:…
Zayach: There are a lot of models predicting Dif things, relative to where the surge might be. Those get updated pretty frequently based on the latest information. "So it's difficult to say it's going to happen in the middle of May or June or July."
"Following those orders will have a significant influence on what our overall number of cases and hospitalizations look like. We are seeing some positive trends that we hope will continue," Zayach says.
"The more people follow those orders and stay home, the better off we're going to be."
The droplets can spread farther than originally thought (I think I just saw a study that said 13 ft?) which is why masks are so important for the general public, Zayach says — ESPECIALLY when you're exercising, which can spread droplets further.
"I know that's awkward for ppl, but that is an important time for ppl to be wearing masks," Zayach said. They're intended to protect other ppl from you. "Unless everyone is wearing masks, we don't have two-way control."
DO NOT go outside without wearing a mask, he says.
DO NOT order medical masks online. We need those for healthcare workers.
290 cases
Majority are still 20-29
Follow by 60-69 and 50-59 y.o.
60-80 year olds are still the most deaths, bc of their health.
"We are optimistically still positive we are seeing a flattening trend in hospitalizations," Zayach says. That's true for most of the Denver metro.
"This is pretty darn good news," Zayach says, referring to the availability of beds and ventilators in Boulder County.
Oops, sorry, that was just beds: Ventilators are being used MORE, but demand vs. supply is still under 50%, Zayach says.
"These are all good trends."
"As soon as masks were announced as a general public recommendation, we saw a spike in the number of ppl who got out and became active," Zayach says.
That's another reason it's so important to wear masks. Cloth ones won't "filter out" all coronavirus transmission: that's why everyone has to wear them.
Zayach addressing: When can we maybe get out from under stay-at-home orders?
BoCo public health will defer to Governor Polis on this, who is part of group looking at this nationally.
"I don't know at this point what the governor will ultimately .... open a portion or all of the orders after April 26."

We're considering what we might want to do based on what the governor does, Zayach says.
Zayach: We don't want to open it up if cases or hospitalizations are increasing.

And we need better testing and surveillance.
"We haven't seen a sustained reduction in cases for the last 14 days," Zayach says. (Statewide) That's what we need to consider lifting the orders.
So, he says, "please stay at home."
Zayach: "I don't believe any of our hospitals at this point are in crisis standards of care."
I should mention that my above tweets about bed/ventilator availability were for all hospitals in BoCo, not just BCH.
The state as a whole is still "challenged" in getting PPE for health care workers. Zayach previously reported that 3 of 6 BoCo hospitals were short, too. That was two weeks ago.
Testing is still short, too, statewide, bc of a lack of supplies.

When we have expanded testing, Zayach says, we can ID ppl who've been infected, who they've had contact with, and isolate them.
That will take additional staff beyond what local and state health agencies are able to accommodate, Zayach says. New staff are being trained, "slowly but surely."
"If you've all been paying attention to what other countries are doing," some have started to remove some of their orders, Zayach says. "We've seen secondary and third surges" in cases.
"So we need to be extremely thoughtful about how we do this... so that we don't have surges that put us in a position where we have to go back and close things again."
Quick break as engagement manager Sarah Huntley walks council through how to use Zoom.
I think she needs better internet at her house; she keeps cutting out
Q from Wallach: Does Boulder have more 20-29 y.o. cases than the nation as a whole? Why do you think that is (or is not)?
Zayach: "We do know there is more transmission in younger age groups than was expected when this first appeared."
He doesn't know how that compares to national trends. I'm going to say we should compare ourselves to other college towns.
Wallach: If wearing masks is that important, why have we left it a voluntary decision, especially in places like grocery stores?
Zayach: "We're talking about this going forward."
Zayach: To do an enforcement, you have to have masks available.

"The logistics of enforcing those orders is difficult but it's also important."
Without a vaccine, "we're going to be in a mask situation for quite some time. ... The reality is we probably won't see any stabilization without a vaccine in place."
"Masks are going to be an important component regardless of how we move forward."

Zayach also says that antibody testing (to determine who may be immune) is still likely "months away." So we'll need to have a "push for masks."
Whether that's a mandate or a campaign, he says, I'm not sure.
Friend asks about grocery store employees not wearing masks. Can we make employers, at least, make their workers wear masks?
Zayach: I don't know if we have enough masks in the state to get ppl to wear them, or to make them.
Friend: Is it better to come from the city or the state?
Zayach: I'd want to see it at a state level.
"If we're the only ones that do that (mandate masks), in Boulder County, but we have ppl coming into the county..." The more uniformity we have, the better, Zayach says.
Rob Vissers, BCH CEO: We've had hundreds of masks donated to the hospital. We're giving them away to the public, bc we have surgical masks.
Friend: Is anyone coordinating an effort for essential workers?
Vissers: Idk about that. "We don't have that many grocery stores in town. If they called us," we could drop them off. Enough for what they need.
Sorry; missed a couple of council qs. Joseph asking about why there is a testing shortage.
Zayach repeating: There aren't enough materials.
Young: I got an email from the co building Park Mosaic. They offered to house health care workers.
She also has a q: How important is testing, surveillance, etc. AND the 14-day drop in cases, when it comes to lifting stay-at-home orders?
"In an ideal world," Zayach says, we'd be able to test anyone who might be positive, ppl with high-risk conditions, first responders, unhoused folks, etc.

And the staff necessary to do the follow-up.
"We know if we do more testing, we'd expect to see more cases come forward that we would need to do investigation on" to hold down the surge, Zayach says.
You'd also have really good monitoring in place so when you lift orders, you can tell if/when you see surges down to "portions" of Boulder County.

"That's an ideal world."
Too bad we live in this world.
Zayach: You don't want to lift orders in the middle of a surge.
All these considerations are being talked about, Zayach says.
Young asking about race/ethnicity data.
Zayach says the county will have that by next council meeting.
Young: Will findings from that data affect testing criteria?
Zayach: "We haven't gotten quite that far yet. If we're having unequal impacts, obviously it's incumbent upon us to design strategies to minimize those things."
Brockett: Do we current have enough tests in CO to test everyone with COVID-related symptoms?
No, Zayach says.
Some places have been able to expand capacity for testing, Zayach says, "but right now the biggest challenge is the supplies themselves."
Friend: I asked last week about masks for the unhoused. Do we have an update on that?
Kurt Firnhaber: Prob 150 or so right now. Those are being distributed to shelters and individuals leaving shelters. "That will be ramped up as we get more masks."
Yates suggesting the city host an online "repository" to match mask-makers with those who need masks.

Huntley: We'll do that.
Vissers: I think we are seeing an impact. As of this morning 5 positive patients in BCH; "most of them" in the ICU.

Typically we've been running closer to 20, he says.
"This is an encouragement to continue (with current measures) not to let up; it is making a difference. It's saving lives."
I want to clarify the earlier tweet about the no. of hospitalizations. Vissers also said only one "rule-out." That's the number he said was typically closer to 20.

I think that means ppl who seemed like they had COVID but didn't...?
I'm sorry; it's all moving so quickly. But key takeaway: Things are getting better.
"The message is: It's working," Vissers says.
There is concern at BCH and at health orgs in Denver about ppl not going to the doctor or the hospital. He touched on this last week.
Since the stay-at-home order, we've seen a significant reduction in patients with chest pain: It's 2/3 of what it was, he says.

"We know that heart disease hasn't suddenly diminished in our community."
The hospital is extremely safe, Vissers says. All workers and patients screened every day for symptoms.
13 positives among BCH employees; no positive case in over a week. They've been traced to the community, not the hospital.
Idk if I tweeted this earlier but Vissers says "we're nowhere near" needing the crisis standards Colorado developed for decided who gets life-saving care in the event of an equipment shortage.
At least I'm fairly certain that's what he said this time and earlier.
Even if that's not what he was referring to, given the bed/ventilator capacity BoCo has right now, it's definitely still true.
Joseph asking a q about that slide showing that ppl started going outside more once the public was advised to wear masks.

Zayach: I wasn't trying to draw a correlation to the number of cases.
"What I don't want ppl to do is think masks are the be-all-end-all," Zayach says. If everyone is wearing masks, that will definitely reduce the spread. But.. "that mask is not going to protect you from someone who is not wearing a mask that coughs in your face."
Be careful not to touch the front of your mask when you take it off, Zayach says, if you've been out and around other ppl. Use the ear straps. That's also why you should wash it in hot water after every time you go outside.
Vissers: A study looked at ppl cycling, running, walking. You are expelling more droplets and most of them are behind you. The faster you're going, the further those droplets go.

Good news for anyone behind me on a bike.
"When you have ppl in a line, like on the public trails, they probably are increasing their exposure if they're unmasked and behind someone," Vissers says. Ideally, we want to keep a greater distance.
Encourages exercising on public streets "that are empty right now."

And, he says, being side-by-side is safer than following behind someone.
Helpful phone number: 303.415.8180, that's a 24/7 triage line

If you think you have symptoms or if you want to determine whether or not to seek medical attention.
I'm going to keep this thread for the city response to COVID. Brautigam addressing furloughs.
Those will save $2.83M, according to staff (that's in the presentation I posted a link to earlier)

That's in addition to a $3.6M savings from the hiring freeze
This isn't in the presentation, but I asked and received a by-department breakdown:
"The city's financial position has indicated we need to make immediate changes to our staffing," Brautigam says.
175 or 13% of our standard staff
562 or 95% of our seasonal & temporary staff
"Standard" might not mean FTE; it's anyone eligible for city benefits whose salaries are already budgeted for, Brautigam explains.
I do not have a breakdown of standard or temp/seasonal for each department, though I requested one
"Every dept in the city has been affected by this furlough," Brautigam says.
CFO Cheryl Patelli: We're estimating 70% of our revenue will be impacted by COVID in 2020
Economists are suggesting real estate may be impacted by $1.3T(!) in 2020. It will most likely be regional, Patelli says. "We don't have information at this point as to what might happen to Boulder moving forward" RE: property tax.
"With new information ... Scenario 3 which at the time (April 7) was our worst-case, we now consider to be our best-case scenario, Patelli says.
"More dire" scenarios will be presented at the April 28 budget discussion. CU economist Rich Wobbekind going to present at that meeting.
He does the yearly economic forecasts that are so popular.
Pattelli (I've been leaving the second T from her name; sorry!) Most economists feel the recovery from this will take 2-3 years
The savings from the furloughs/freezes do not include benefits.

"With these moves, I think we've made good progress with making our (budget) gap smaller," Pattelli says.
Swetlik q: Were there any reductions to staff pay for non-furloughed workers?
Brautigam: "We've talked among ourselves that there is going to be a second phase of savings. The idea of reducing salaries for management employees is one of the things we will be discussing."
Brockett q: Are we going to get add'l info about what positions were furloughed?
Brautigam: We furloughed many, many employees and we are wanting to maintain their privacy. We're not going to release info about individuals who have been furloughed.
Brockett thinks that's a good idea, tho.

He expresses sympathies to the staff.
Wallach q: To what extent have we considered spreading out the pain by reducing salaries and minimizing layoffs? 10 employees would prob be happier at 90% of compensation than one of them having 0% compensation.
Brautigam: "It's actually my theory that trying to maintain ppl on board that are not providing services is not a good plan for local gov't where the $$ that we get come from our taxpayers. I feel it's important if a person is not performing essential services....
.... in a time of emergency, that we should not be paying them."
OK, that's all for this. Gonna start a new thread for transportation stuff. @threadreaderapp pls unroll. Thanks!
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