Disregarding public health orders could mean jail time and a hefty fine for one mountain county in Colorado amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Violating public health orders in Pitkin County now carries the highest-level misdemeanor in Colorado.
Mountain county law enforcement, including those in Aspen, Snowmass Village, and Basalt, will now be issuing misdemeanor tickets for "egregious public health violations," such as large parties and gatherings.
The offense for violators is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 18 months in jail and/or a $500 to $5,000 fine.
"Sending a letter a week later that says ‘Don’t do it again,’ is not as clear as a ticket stuck in a hand the night it happens," Aspen Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn told The Aspen Times in a recent interview.
Focusing on the need to reinforce pandemic safety, officers will be patrolling to look for any signs of large gatherings such as noise complaints.
"We are not spying on you," states a joint press release from the Upper Valley law enforcement agencies.
The increase in public health order enforcement comes with a significant increase in COVID-19 transmission rates, which resulted in the mountain county moving back into level red restrictions last week.
The new public health order went into effect in Pitkin County on Saturday, January 17th, prohibiting indoor dining at restaurants and increasing the monitoring of public health requirements at ski resorts. Lodging reservations have also been restricted to one single household per unit.
Despite having one of the highest COVID-19 incidence rates in Colorado, Pitkin County has experienced a steady decline in rates for almost a week now.
For more information, please visit https://covid19.pitkincounty.com/.