One of the most popular ski counties in Colorado continues to struggle amid a high COVID-19 presence, with county officials now considering more extreme measures, including a total shutdown.
The Pitkin County Board of Health, in charge of managing public health in the Aspen area, gathered during a 'special board of health meeting' on Thursday, January 7, to discuss the local status of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Pitkin County epidemiologist Josh Vance, the county currently has the second-highest COVID-19 incidence rate in the state of Colorado.
Data shown in the meeting indicated that most COVID-19 exposure has been occurring in the household (30.7 percent) and at one's place of employment (23.9 percent). Data also indicated that most of the recent outbreaks have occurred at restaurants, which have accounted for 42.9 percent of outbreaks during the last two weeks. Fifteen outbreaks involving restaurants are currently active in Pitkin County.
As Pitkin County continues to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Polis directed the CDPHE to move all 'red level' counties to 'level orange' last Monday. Pitkin County has continued to enforce stricter public health requirements, along with seven other Colorado counties. In Pitkin County, it's estimated that one in 38 residents are currently able to transmit COVID-19.
During the meeting, local ski resorts were briefly addressed, with one board member pushing for the inclusion of the Aspen SkiCo in the conversation of possible new restrictions. It's unclear how any change in restrictions would impact ski resort operations.
Near the end of the meeting, Snowmass Mayor Markey Butler suggested a "full shutdown" for two weeks, which was immediately met with a brief moment of silence from others on the video conference call, followed by others agreeing that strict steps may need to be taken to get the situation under control.
According to Aspen Times, three options are set to be discussed on Monday.
The first option is to fully adopt the state's 'level red' restrictions after 'red level' criteria is reached. This would close indoor dining and cancel all indoor events, among other things.
The second option to be considered is moving to 'purple level' restrictions, which acts as a stay-at-home order. Under this tier of restrictions, all indoor and outdoor dining would close, as would gyms, personal services, and offices. Exceptions would be made for critical businesses.
A third option to be considered would be reminiscent of an even more strict shutdown, similar to what happened in March. During this period, hotels and other short-term rentals were also shut down.
"I've really got to digest all of this," said Mayor Butler, "There [are] a lot of consequences, unintended and intended consequences of every decision this board will be making."
A decision on the potential shutdown is set to be made on Monday during a 1 PM meeting.
Pitkin County is no stranger to ramping up safety requirements in hopes of stopping the spread of COVID-19. For example, a 'traveler affidavit' requirement is currently in place, forcing those that plan to spend the night in the county to state that they've gotten negative COVID-19 test results within three days of their trip or that they will quarantine for ten days upon their arrival.
Find meeting slides and a link to watch the board's conversation in its entirety here.