Freezing drizzle had just begun to fall across Boulder County on Wednesday morning when photojournalist Anthony Albidrez and I slid our way south toward the Sans Souci mobile home park. There we met residents Michael Peirce, Karen Finch and Peggy Kuhn, who gave us a tour of wind damage throughout the resident-owned community nearly three weeks after the Marshall Fire.

As we walked through the rows of manufactured homes — a few of them roofless, many more with metal skirting peeled back — we met resident Doretta Hultquist. She’s 80 years old and has lived at Sans Souci for 52 years. She’s still without water, due to corroded pipes that froze after a wind-snapped tree limb took out a power line, leaving residents without electricity for days.

“We didn’t get the same kind of damage as the people who lost everything — their home and everything in it, their vehicles. They were only able to get out with their lives,” Hultquist said. “We’re not in that dire situation. But we’re a low-income to moderate-income mobile home park, and we need some help too.”

You’ll find that story in this morning’s edition of BRL Today, along with an update on Omicron in Boulder County from reporter John Herrick. He offers a clear-eyed look at downward-trending case numbers and the “cautious optimism” of state health officials, along with lingering questions surrounding the toll of the latest Covid-19 variant.

Happy reading, and please have a most excellent weekend. We’ll see you bright and early on Monday.

– Jezy, managing editor

Sans Souci residents Karen Finch (left), Peggy Kuhn (center), Indy 500 (also center) and Michael Peirce (right) stand outside their co-op mobile home park on a cold Wednesday morning, nearly three weeks after winds associated with the Marshall Fire caused damage, power outages and water problems for many in the low- to middle-income community. Credit: Anthony Albidrez

Top Stories

‘Sans Souci magic’: A cooperative community looks for support after the Marshall Fire

The resident-owned mobile home park was spared the worst of the destruction from the Marshall Fire, but the needs of its low-income and elderly residents are many and multiplying. Read the full story

Covid-19 cases are trending down in Boulder County, according to state data. But the toll of Omicron is still unclear.

State health officials are cautiously optimistic. New daily case counts remain high, they said, and residents should remain vigilant as unknowns surrounding Omicron (including data gaps) persist. Read the full story

Quickly

⏱️ Boulder County residents concerned about breathing in toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released by the Marshall Fire can view real-time results from air quality monitors set up by county health officials in the burn area.
⏱️ Did you lose wages or essential work tools due to the Marshall Fire? You could be eligible for financial assistance, thanks to a partnership between Boulder County and Community Foundation Boulder County.
⏱️ In a change from the plan discussed during last week’s community meeting, the City of Louisville says water will not be turned back on this week. Service will return on a case-by-case basis, as individual homes are tested.
⏱️ Living in a hotel after the Marshall Fire? Volunteers want to help bring you a little comfort and joy: homemade dinners, organizational help and more.
⏱️ Seeds Library Cafe is closing at the main location of the Boulder Public Library. A new vendor is expected to operate there this spring.
⏱️ Rising natural gas prices is the subject of two virtual events next week hosted by the City of Boulder and Xcel Energy. Learn how to understand your energy bill and reduce costs this winter.
⏱️ Want to serve on the Human Relations Commission (HRC) and Housing Advisory Board? The city’s Housing and Human Services Department is seeking applicants.
⏱️ Speaking of the HRC: They are accepting grant applications for Immigrant Heritage Month in June. Qualifying nonprofit orgs will get up to $1,500 in support for their project. Apply here.
⏱️ The Office of Arts and Culture is offering an additional $2,000 for projects with art components.
⏱️ Weigh in on the Parks and Recreation Master Plan Update with a virtual public workshop accessible any time through Feb. 7. (Or join a staffed version on Thursday, Feb. 3, 5:30-7 p.m.)
⏱️ The Boulder County Disaster Assistance Center (DAC) in Lafayette will close for in-person services on Saturday at 5 p.m. as response shifts to longer-term recovery in the aftermath of the Marshall Fire.
⏱️ Those who have been affected by the Marshall Fire will still be able to get assistance and information online, with additional targeted support for people who need help with recovery.
⏱️ The City of Boulder currently has 91 (!) job openings.

Covid-19 in Boulder County: Jan. 21, 2022

  • 775 daily new cases (7-day avg.)  🔺Up 72% over preceding 7-day avg.
  • 82 patients hospitalized with Covid (7-day avg.) 🔺Up from avg. of 40 since July 2020.
  • 67% percent of ICU is occupied. Down from avg. of 72% since July 2020.
  • Data: Here’s how and where we’re tracking all of the above.

Latest Covid news

  • New KN95 initiative. To help make KN95 and surgical grade masks more accessible, the State of Colorado has launched a new effort to offer them for free at public libraries. Masks are now available at the Nederland Community Library and the Lyons Community Library. Louisville Public Library is also participating, but they are currently out of KN95 masks. The Library has requested more and will provide updates on their Facebook page when they are available.
  • Covid testing update from BVSD. The Centaurus High School Covid-19 testing site remains open from 9 a.m.–5 p.m., Monday through Friday (appointment required). BVSD students and staff may continue to test without an appointment at mobile testing sites. Here’s schedule and registration info.
  • Boosters and risk. Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist, said Thursday that unvaccinated individuals have 46 times the risk of being hospitalized with Covid than individuals who have received a booster dose. Individuals who are not yet boosted, but are vaccinated, have 7 times the risk of being hospitalized compared to boosted Coloradans. The data, which is not yet publicly available, covers a four-week moving average.

BRL Picks

🧸 Toy drive needs volunteers. CU Boulder has been collecting toys for kids affected by the Marshall Fire, and they need a few helping hands. Sign up here to help with donation transport, toy distribution and clean-up.
🧘 Self care for a cause. Support Boulder County fire victims with tea, yoga, skincare tips and more. All proceeds from ticket sales to the Winter Wellness Gathering and Fundraiser hosted by Element Catalyst on Friday, Jan. 28, go to the Sister Carmen Community Center to help with relief efforts.
🎻 Music to our ears. Celebrate legendary composer George Gershwin with a livestream performance from the Marcus Roberts Trio at Macky Auditorium tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. From the travelogue An American in Paris to Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F, the evening will be full of memorable performances you can stream from the comfort of your own home.
🙊 Silent auction. Support Marshall Fire victims with a silent auction this Saturday, Jan. 22, at the Rayback Collective (2775 Valmont Rd.) Presented in partnership with Boulder Food Rescue, Backcountry, Avery Brewing Company and Specialized Boulder, 100% of proceeds from the auction — along with Avery draft beer sales – will support the Boulder County Wildfire Fund.
👑 Fit for a King. Join Pulitzer Prize-winning Howard University professor and racial justice reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones, creator of the New York Times’ 1619 Project, for a commemorative conversation about the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The virtual event kicks off today at 11 a.m. Register here.

What We’re Reading

  • Federal money for police programs. The City of Boulder received a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to help the Boulder Police Department collect and analyze data to be more “holistic” in how officers enforce the city’s camping ban. The city also received a $150,000 grant to train more police officers in crisis intervention and to evaluate the city’s behavioral health co-responder program known as the Crisis Intervention Response Team. [Boulder Police Department]
  • La Niña, climate change and bad luck. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) analyzes the climate context of the Marshall Fire. “We were having a record drought; global warming is increasing the frequency of droughts. We were having record warmth; global warming is increasing the frequency of heat extremes. It seems pretty safe to conclude that global warming trends played at least some role in setting this up,” said Deputy State Climatologist for Colorado Becky Bolinger. [NOAA]

ICYMI

🏠 Amid debate, Boulder’s nonprofits propose new shelter as a hub for homeless services. The organizations want the city’s help finding a location for a 24-hour shelter. A city official overseeing housing policy said there are no city-owned properties that would be able to sleep up to 100 people.

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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.