Good morning, Boulder! Let’s get right to it. 📨✨

Did you know Colorado had the highest quit rate of any state in October? That’s according to a new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s particularly stark in the food service industry, where workers are especially reluctant to go back to their jobs as the pandemic rages on.

In today’s top story, reporter Ryan Ernstes talks to local restaurant owners, managers and CU experts about how staffing shortages are combining with high inflation and supply chain problems to impact dining experiences in Boulder.

Did you quit your job recently? We want to know why.

– Jezy, managing editor

A rainbow streaks the gray morning sky above Walden Ponds at 7:30 a.m. on Dec. 15. Credit: Sharon Bolsinger

Got an image for our Lens on Boulder series? Submissions: photos@boulderreportinglab.org

Top Story

Boulder restaurants are reeling from supply chain snarls and staffing challenges. When will things get back to normal?

Walk to the front of the line at the Boulder location of WoodGrain Bagel & Deli, and you’ll find a newly minted notice by the register. The note informs customers of a 6.5% service charge that will be added to all orders, “to offset the rise in food, paper, and labor costs.” You’ll find similar announcements at several other Boulder food retailers. What do these notices tell us about how the supply chain crunch is playing out locally, as the pandemic’s effects linger? And what does it mean for customers? Read the full story

Quickly

⏱️ Sunny skies today with a high near 60.
⏱️ Campus officials at CU Boulder will test the university’s emergency alert system at noon.
⏱️ The Boulder Public Library system is getting a boost to the tune of $792K. The money will support lots of major projects, including a new north Boulder branch.
⏱️ Water your trees. That’s the message from city officials, as a dry start to winter season could cause branch dieback, reduced leaf size and tree death.
⏱️ Tune in today at 4 p.m. for a town hall with Police Chief Maris Herold, who will present on the Boulder Police Department budget.

Covid-19 in Boulder County: Dec. 20, 2021

  • 94 daily new cases (7-day avg.) Down 7% over preceding 7-day avg.
  • 70 patients hospitalized with Covid (7-day avg.) Up from avg. of 38 since July 2020.
  • 69% percent of ICU is occupied Down from avg. of 72% since July 2020.

Latest Covid news

  • 10,000 dead from Covid-19. Colorado reached a grim pandemic milestone last week. CPR spoke with Megan Worthman, a staff chaplain who works for UCHealth at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, about dealing with the “staggering” loss from the frontlines of the health care system.
  • Pandemic recovery. Colorado’s economy is projected to continue recovering from the pandemic, but Covid-19 remains a risk, according to the December economic forecast by the Legislative Council, a nonpartisan research arm of the state legislature. “While economic activity has reached and exceeded pre-pandemic levels, employment has yet to fully recover as several in-person industries remain heavily impacted by health concerns, and many workers have scaled back or reconsidered their employment options.”
  • A third shot for small kids. In a change of plans, Pfizer is testing an extra dose of the Covid vaccine for children under five. “The addition of an extra dose came after a preliminary analysis found 2- to 4-year-olds didn’t have as strong an immune response as expected to special low-dose shots.”
  • What makes Omicron so transmissible? Early lab data from researchers with the LKS Faculty of Medicine at The University of Hong Kong offers an early look at potential answers: “Omicron’s mutations have turbo-boosted its ability to enter human cells and replicate inside them. But until scientists have collected and analyzed samples from inside patients’ noses and throats, they won’t know if the variant actually leads to substantially higher viral loads, which has been the key to Delta’s own enhanced infectiousness over previous strains.” 

BRL Picks

🧦 Put a sock in it. Sometimes the simplest items have the biggest impact — like a warm pair of socks when you’re cold. That’s why Premier Members Credit Union is hosting a sock drive through Dec. 31 to support local youth homelessness nonprofit TGTHR (formerly Attention Homes). “TGTHR is hoping for donations of high ankle/calf (all sizes) and specifically Merino wool hiking socks, which are best for those typically outside and on their feet all day.”
🚗 Get rolling. Meals on Wheels of Boulder is looking for volunteers at their local marketplace and café. Cashiers and servers are needed at the Eat Well Café in the West Age Well Center at 909 Arapahoe Ave., and the Niche Market in the Meals on Wheels office building at 3701 Canfield St.
🚲 Share your vision. Got thoughts on Boulder’s Vision Zero Innovation Program? The city wants your input on the effectiveness of specific safety projects related to curb extensions, crossing treatments and traffic calming. Here’s a map of 2020–2021 projects across the city.
🍷 Age well. Boulder County Community Services is offering free classes on healthy aging. Sign up now for courses on medicare basics, nutrition and wellness through a new online portal from the Boulder County Area Agency on Aging.

What We’re Reading

  • What we know (and don’t) about the final days of Jessica Aldama. The 33-year-old woman and her newborn daughter were found dead by Boulder police at an encampment for unhoused residents on Oct. 11. Shay Castle breaks down what we know about their deaths, and what questions remain unanswered, ahead of the National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day on Tuesday, Dec. 21. [Boulder Beat]
  • New regulations and Colorado’s climate goals. Stricter rules are in place for the oil and gas industry after a series of Boulder County air studies and inspections related to air quality control. “‘These new regulations will reduce greenhouse gas emissions around 50 percent by 2030, getting us closer to the HB21-1266 target of 60 percent by 2030,’ said Boulder County Commissioner Claire Levy. ‘However, the AQCC chose to weaken the CDPHE proposal and did not adopt suggested requirements for pneumatic controllers. Increased direct regulation of this polluting industry is absolutely necessary to reduce methane emissions.'” [Boulder County]
  • Colorado becomes “focal point” of the so-called Great Resignation. The quit rate here in October was 3.8% — the highest of any state in the U.S. “Data published last week suggests the labor shortage will linger well into the new year. Job openings rebounded to 11 million, landing just shy of record highs as businesses’ demand for workers remained strong.” [Business Insider]
  • A downward trend for student enrollment continues. It’s not just BVSD — school enrollment is down 0.7% across the Denver metro region. “The continued decline is likely due to high housing prices making it challenging for families to afford urban and many suburban areas, some students staying in the alternative education models, and ongoing COVID-19 concerns,” said a recent report by the nonpartisan Legislative Council. That downward trend is projected to continue, according to the report, as changes to statewide public school enrollment remain essentially flat. [Colorado Legislative Council]

ICYMI from BRL

💉 More than 99% of Boulder city workers complied with vaccine requirement. Questions remain about specific disciplinary action for unvaccinated employees who have not requested a medical or religious exemption.
🍎 Three takeaways from the latest BVSD school board meeting. Enrollment and budget worries were top of mind during the final forum of 2021. In the first installment of a new regular series, we watch (and summarize) school board meetings so you don’t have to.
⛰️ Mountain film festival returns to Boulder Theater. The global touring exhibition’s Colorado stop features short films about mountain cultures, remote landscapes and action sports.

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– The BRL Team

Jezy J. Gray

Jezy Gray was the former managing editor of Boulder Reporting Lab. In addition to years of writing on the culture, politics and history of my home state of Oklahoma, he was the final editor-in-chief of the Tulsa Voice, a local bi-weekly newspaper where I led a small but mighty team of journalists to regional and national honors in feature writing, diversity reporting, LGBTQ+ coverage and more.