6/16/22 COVID-19 Communication

RMBL Community-

Thanks so much for the great feedback we received from the community! Lots of thoughtful emails and conversations combined with patience and understanding. I will cut straight to the chase with what we plan to do in terms of masks and reporting, effective immediately,  followed by a bit more information.

Masking Requirements

  1. We will require masks in the serving area of the dining hall for the rest of the summer. This is a confined area with poor ventilation and some people cannot avoid going through there. I do ask that people be patient with staff—the requirement applies to them but at times things get busy and they are moving a lot of hot things fast.
  2. Until further notice will require masks in all lab spaces and classrooms . PI’s that are not sharing labs may ask for exceptions of me (Ian Billick) if there are extenuating circumstances.
  3. Until further notice we will require masks at seminars in the dining hall, though we will not require use of masks during meals or outside structured events. We will work to keep the building ventilated.
  4. Masks will not be required in Ruby Lounge nor other voluntary social locations.
  5. Staff will mirror visitors to their offices; if a visitor is using a mask, staff will follow suit. But be graceful/patient if a staff person forgets.
  6. Masks will not be required in the Visitor’s Center or the Coffee Lab.
  7. We will continue to provide hybrid options for structured programs, but have no intent to move programs online.
  8. We will not require masks outside, though we ask that people be sensitive to others, either maintaining their distance or using masks if they are interacting with someone wearing a mask.
  9. We strongly encourage use of K95 or N95 masks.


We have had requests for reporting of incidents. We do not receive information from public health about incidents onsite, nor are people required to report to us cases. Furthermore, when we do receive private medical information RMBL has ethical (and legal) constraints around publicly sharing private health care information. Simply removing names is not necessarily sufficient to anonymize data. However, we have plan on the following to provide the general community an understanding of trends in the townsite. We ask that onside residents let the office (Katie, Brett, and Julie) know if they have tested positive and on what day they tested positive. Each Tuesday and Friday by 5 pm we will post at this link the number of cases reported for the prior 7 days. If we see any disturbing trends emerging between Tuesday and Friday, we will send notice out to the community, rather than wait (though our ability to detect and report trends will always be hampered on the weekends). We are working through protocols, and associated legal and ethical considerations, around notifying individuals in communal settings that they are sharing a cabin with someone who has tested positive. The easiest thing is if roommates communicate among themselves or give us permission to communicate for them.

We will provide this information with the following caveats. Even public health institutions with lots of resources and clear lines of reporting are struggling to obtain and interpret information. Consequently, while we appreciate that scientists are data hogs, we will not be providing additional information, though we will provide links to information about Colorado and the county. Furthermore, the absence of reported cases does not mean the absence of cases. With vaccinations and boosters there are numerous false positives as well as asymptomatic individuals who may be unaware they were even expose. Additionally, we do not receive information from public health, to whom PCR results are reported, nor are individuals required to report home tests or PCR tests to us.

For context, in advance of the reporting that will start tomorrow, we had one resident report a positive test last week, and two this week.


RMBL may simply not be the right place for everybody during in an outbreak. We don’t have the resources to solve everybody’s needs in an outbreak, particularly those who understandably require more isolation. As we indicated in May, we have very few options for moving people out of communal living spaces should an infection emerge, though we still have some available housing in Gunnison. More locally, people can check out hotels, VRBO’s, or air BnB’s. We will not penalize people financially for moving out of a shared living space because they or a housemate test positive.

Final Notes

You can ignore this section and you won’t miss anything tangible, but I thought I would pass on a few observations from the feedback and conversations I’ve had in the last 24 hrs.

  1. We are doing our best to allow people to manage their own risk profiles, also recognizing that individual risk is greatly affected by overall infection rates and community transmission.
  2. There are people in our community who are immuno-compromised or at high risk of severe negative outcomes if infected. While we can’t keep everybody completely safe, it is important that as a community that we do what we can.
  3. It is heartbreaking talking to younger people about what they have lost due to the pandemic. Decision-makers are older and as such, have a greater understanding of the needs and risks of older people. This pandemic has hit all age groups but hit them in very different ways. Because the risk and consequence of infection is very different across age groups, people in different situations have very different cost/benefit profiles. I have had more younger people articulate the challenges and risks to older people than vice versa. I strongly encourage the senior science community to be attuned to the challenges and losses of our younger community members.
  4. Facial expressions are important to many, though not all, for navigating social networks, especially younger individuals in novel networks with complicated power asymmetries.
  5. In general, patience, empathy, and grace will be what holds RMBL together through the third summer of the pandemic. We will support however you decide to manage your risk level, but we do ask you to accept that if you decide to live and/or work at RMBL, it comes with some risks and the give and take inevitable in any community setting.

Thanks again for how thoughtful everybody has been! We will keep evaluating the situation and doing our best to keep you informed.

Ian Billick

Executive Director