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What Happens When You Need a Rescue During a Pandemic

Screen-Shot-2020-03-31-at-11.31.54-AM A harrowing backcountry rescue at 11,000 feet exposes the precarious situation first responders are in thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

On Tuesday, March 24, Sonja and Bill Allen’s home radio crackles to life at 1:10 p.m. There is no cell service in Ophir, Colorado, an 1880s mining town 20 minutes south of Telluride encircled by 13,000-foot peaks. But its 180 residents and virtually all the skiers who seek out the world-class backcountry above town know about the two-way radio frequency that fills the void. Many locals keep their radios tuned to the “Ophir channel” when they’re at home, if only to monitor the chatter among fellow powder seekers. 

The Allens listen as someone skiing in East Waterfall Canyon reports an avalanche with a critically injured victim. The situation sounds dire: potentially two broken femurs and a fractured pelvis.

Sonja, a longtime guide and avalanche forecaster for Telluride Helitrax, alerts Dan Hehir two houses away. Hehir, 49, is the chief of medical staff at the Telluride Regional Medical Center and an emergency physician. He has just finished eating lunch with his wife, a teacher, and children, who are out of school due to the coronavirus pandemic. It has been a stressful three weeks for Hehir, treating sick patients in full protective gear and worrying about the virus spreading. His hospital has already recorded one positive case of COVID-19; other tests are waiting to be returned.

 Read the full story at Outside.com
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