BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Los Alamos County manager Harry Burgess told the County Council Tuesday evening during their teleconference meeting that the one immediate change in the County due to the governor’s planned phased recovery or reopening plan was that the Los Alamos Golf Course could reopen. He said efforts are underway to open the facility Friday in anticipation of the weekend play.
“In trying to open the facility under these conditions we’re considering a lot of the various issues that could arise. Our staff have been diligent in looking at all sorts of issues particularly some changes that are in place – although golf course is open, the retail portion is not. The pro shop falls into that category, also the location where we sell passes for the golf course so staff is reconfiguring the office to utilize door to the outside to prevent having to allow people inside,” he said.
Burgess said considerations have been developed for tee times and where they are normally scheduled for every 10 minutes, staff has chosen to schedule every 15 minutes. Golf cars will be rented to individuals and having multiple individuals on a single cart will not be allowed because it violates the social distancing, except for when an individual lives in a household with a parent and is not of age to drive a car and is obviously already interfacing with whoever they’re playing with, Burgess said.
The ball washers have been closed off and staff have devised a different type of pole marking system so that every time someone comes through they don’t have to physically remove the flag and potentially transmit the virus, he said. The goal is to make sure both the people playing golf and the staff are safe.
Burgess noted that on May 15, there is a provision for retail to open providing they follow the same COVID safety protocols. Elective medical procedures will also restart to include dentistry. Burgess said with businesses in town scrambling to be open, one thing that has come up is how businesses might acquire personal protective equipment for their staff and potentially the public depending on their operations. He said Patrick Sullivan, executive director of the Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation has agreed to pursue the purchase of some PPE so that the LACDC could sell it to businesses whatever businesses might need it. Burgess said County procurement staff has provided a list of vendors the County had been successful in purchasing from.
“None of us have done this before so it is kind of interesting to try and come up with provisions for social distancing in a retail environment,” Burgess said. He noted that the County is looking at others that have already made provisions such as signage, plexi-glass, tape on their floors and more.
Burgess noted that the election cycle began Tuesday. He said County Clerk Naomi Maestas reached out to Emergency Manager Beverley Simpson for PPE for staff and election workers and that lanes have been set up outside the Municipal Building for any lines that may form as people show up to vote so that they can maintain their distance and are segregated from others coming to the building for business.
Maestas reported that some 21 people voted in person Tuesday and that her office mailed out close to 900 absentee ballots. She said a total of 2,000 had already been requested.
Burgess said the state COVID-19 testing numbers are unfortunately still not updating as the County would like to see them.
“We are aware of additional tests that have occurred that are not showing up on that number and we’ve also been waiting for certain positives that we’re aware of to show up in the total. At present although the number says there are six positive, we are aware of 10 in the county. Also for the total number of tests because across the state individuals have had difficulty with the Department of Health’s reporting abilities and keeping it up-to-date,” Burgess said.
He said the difficulty is that the County doesn’t necessarily know if one of its citizens has gone to Albuquerque or Espanola to obtain a test.
“If they did and it was reported as either positive or negative, it should be reported in their county of residence and so it’s not just about knowing about what Los Alamos Medical Center’s numbers are or our Public Health Office. There are other players in this that are even outside of our County,” Burgess said.
Last week, he said 25 people tested at the Public Health Office and on Monday an additional 16 tested there. He said Los Alamos Medical Center reported an additional eight tests.
“LANL has been attempting to stand up their own test site. I did discuss with the site manager today their provisions for testing and they anticipate at least at present, they’re not participating in the state program, they’re doing it themselves. We discussed whether or not it would be reported to the state and there was a lack of clarity there,” Burgess said. “Part of the reason they’re not participating is to avoid charging the state for the tests I was told. They are focusing on their own personnel as well as their contractors for testing right now. They are not looking at opening it up to the community, again not trying not to step on the toes of the Public Health Office as they do their testing.”
Burgess said the Lab is presently in a pilot phase of the program because they are getting licensed through the state.
“They have to prove up on their process and they are awaiting the go ahead from the state to actually kick their testing process into full gear. I’m afraid I don’t have much more information on their process other than to say that had tested four Lab employees to date in this pilot process and their only limitation is the availability of the kits necessary to do the tests as well, I was told. That’s not too different to what we’ve heard elsewhere,” he said.
Meanwhile, senior Lab officials confirmed to the Los Alamos Reporter Wednesday that test results would indeed be shared with the state Department of Health.
With respect to the phased reopening plan, Burgess said mass gatherings are not anticipated to be allowed until Phase 3 in July. Even then, potentially no more than 100 people would be allowed but only if the various measures are maintained and there isn’t a great rise in infection or hospitalizations prior to that date. Several of the events the County had planned will need to be reconsidered, Burgess said, and staff has been talking to vendors about the possibility of alternate means of delivery for their information. He said the concert series definitely won’t be operating for the first couple of months. The ScienceFest team has been looking at an all online delivery event so that there’s still some content out there.
“Unfortunately at this point we are looking at longer term continuation of social distancing and all the related provisions,” Burgess said.