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Summit County Health Director Says Resorts Can Keep People Safe This Winter

Deer Valley Ski Resort

In spite of the surge in COVID-19 cases, Park City’s ski resorts will open with the consent of the Summit County Health Department.


Although both resorts were shut down abruptly last March when Summit County had the second highest number of cases per capita in the country, it’s a very different landscape today. And Summit County Health Director Rich Bullough says the resorts have come up with protocols he believes will keep skiers and resort employees safe.


When asked if a record number of COVID cases won’t impact the ski season – then what would - he said he thinks the resorts have done a good job mitigating his concerns. What we know about the virus is much different than what we knew last March.


Bullough is hoping for the best – as long as residents, guests and businesses remain diligent about following best practices.


“And I believe we can have a healthy winter, but it is gonna take, you know, this is a fearful time and I don’t use that word lightly, but we are worried about what is facing us this winter, so we need to recommit and do all the things that we know to mitigate this,” said Bullough.


The county’s COVID dashboard now shows a split in the number of cases between the east and west sides of the county. Bullough says they’ve wanted to do this for a while – but just got access through the state. Currently it’s shows that the east side of the county has 100 more cases than Park City and the Snyderville Basin.


“You know, I think it’s useful information and the fact is the public should have access to it,” he said. “It’s just taken us too long to get that access. We tried manually loading it for quite a while, and it was cumbersome and so, finally, now it’s automated, it will be updated automatically, and I think we’re finally providing what the community’s been asking for.”


One of the new restrictions put into place by the state - is that bars must stop selling alcohol by 10 p.m. Bullough say that was changed at the last minute. Originally the order would have bars closing at 10 pm. While there’s nothing remarkable about the hour of 10 o’clock – he says many are concerned about the behavior happening in bars across the county. When people drink – they take off their masks and don’t act as responsible as they should.


“This is anecdotal, but that generally is what we think occurs in many bars,” Bullough said. “It’s an environment which, you know, it’s hard to regulate. You know, are we going to have a bartender or somebody going around and telling folks who have been drinking to put their mask on? You know, it’s just a tough situation.”


The intent of the state was to create some thresholds where they could have an impact. But at the very last minute –  the final order  was changed based on advice by the attorney general.


“I’ll be honest, I’m not thrilled about that change,” he added. “We don’t have data suggesting there are large numbers coming from bars, but it’s logical that places where people gather and places where people socialize, you’re gonna have spread. I was supportive of the 10:00 curfew on bars. They changed it and the reason I understand they changed it is because the state attorney apparently told them that they cannot regulate the hours ob business, but they can regulate the sales of alcohol.”


Bullough also thinks the state fell short setting the restrictions for only two weeks. He says that’s not nearly long enough.


“I hope, frankly, that they reevaluate and that they renew,” he said. “They’re calling it a hard reset. It’s three to four weeks before you really have the idea of whether or not there’s a significant impact, so I would say it isn’t working. I’m hopeful that it will be extended well beyond the two weeks, we’ll see what happens.”


The focus on enforcement he says will remain on businesses – not residents to report non-compliance. Summit County and state Labor Commission are getting more aggressive and have identified businesses where there are frequent complaints 


“The state has thrown resource into this and that resource is through the labor commission and complaints can actually be directed — business complaints, not individual complaints — can actually be directed directly to the labor commission and there is a potential of a $10,000 fine,” Bullough said. “So finally there are some teeth behind this and, you know, I think that’s a positive thing.”


The state mandated restrictions are in place until November 23rd. The mask restriction is in force indefinitely.