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Rae Ellen Bichell

Nursing home residents and workers account for about one-third of all coronavirus deaths in the U.S., as The New York Times reported last week. Testing every resident and worker could help slow the spread in nursing homes – but it's expensive.

Everyone knows that living in the Rockies can get expensive. Headwaters Economics wanted to know why. The non-profit published new research this week that examines what causes housing to become so expensive in places where outdoor recreation is a main economic driver.

Depending on the estimate, the U.S. needs between 100,000 and 300,000 contact tracers to help fight COVID-19. Some say these new jobs could be an opportunity for some of the millions of Americans who've been laid off or furloughed.

Communities across the globe are trying to understand what percent of their population has been exposed to COVID-19 by searching random samples of residents for antibodies against the virus. 

This week the governors of Colorado and Nevada joined West Coast states in something called the Western States Pact. Its stated aim is to bring together states with a “shared vision for modifying stay at home orders and fighting COVID-19.” 

The U.S. now has at least three such regional collaborations. 

This post was updated May 1 with additional information

It's World Immunization Week, but there's evidence that vaccinations are down as checkups get postponed or skipped due to worries about getting exposed to the new coronavirus.

Testing is considered a major requirement on the path back to normal, and as the president has made clear, it's largely up to the states to find the way. Are states in the Mountain West up to the task? By multiple measures, Utah and New Mexico are leading the way, while other states are still lagging behind. 

There was the hiker who broke his leg, then refused to put on a mask before the alpine rescue team helped him down the mountain. There were the snowboarders and skiers packing together into cars to drive up to a closed ski area. Or the people howling at the full moon, over open flames.

Bruce Snelling, undersheriff with Clear Creek County in Colorado, said all of these incidents have happened in recent weeks. And until Saturday, there wasn’t too much he could do about it. But now, the county’s public health order lays out some harsh penalties for non-residents using county roads to get to the backcountry: a fine of up to $5,000 or up to 18 months in the county jail.  

San Miguel County, Colorado, is one of few places in the world where testing has been offered to an entire community. As the Mountain West News Bureau has reported, a biomedical company is offering blood tests for free to all residents there over 8 years old. 

As the nation continues to lag behind on testing for the new coronavirus, Utah and New Mexico rank among the states that have administered the most tests per capita. 

We're all social distancing these days, and it's unclear when exactly that will end. But Billy Barr has been doing this for almost 50 years. He's the only full-time resident of Gothic, Colo.

"I'm the mayor and chief of police," he said. "I hold elections every year, but I don't tell anybody when they are, so it works out really well."

After 25 years of running Ellen's Bed and Breakfast in Longmont, Colo., Ellen Ranson got tired of cooking breakfast.

"So we decided to change the name to Ellen's Bed, Bath & Begone," she says.

That left her more time for sleeping in or reading the paper. But that prospect wasn't too exciting, because the local paper had been thinning out for a while, though Ranson says it used to be relevant.

"And now there's news about Frederick or Erie or Fort Collins or something," she says. All are cities she lives near, but not Longmont.

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SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

The closest that Travis Rupp came to getting fired from Avery Brewing Co. in Boulder, Colo., he says, was the time he tried to make chicha. The recipe for the Peruvian corn-based beer, cobbled together from bits of pre-Incan archaeological evidence, called for chewed corn partially fermented in spit. So, Rupp's first task had been to persuade his colleagues to gather round a bucket and offer up their chompers for the cause.

Between growing populations and changing climate conditions, our water sources are only expected to get more crunched. Communities in some very dry states have had to get creative about where to get their water, sometimes purifying sewage into drinking water. More western cities are beginning to get on board, too. But there’s a problem: the ick factor.

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