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Sean Beckwith: Welcome to the coronavirus carnival

In times of crisis, often you see parents try to distract their children from the bad thing with games, stories or, I don’t know, puppies. I’m not sure how well it works considering I’m iffy on the premise because I am not a parent.

However, judging by the way I’ve been bouncing off the furniture and chasing various volleyballs, footballs and Frisbees, I’m more in the category of “child who needs to be distracted” than concerned parent. So being the age of some young parents with the maturity of an old kid, I thought I would be the perfect person to create game show-type diversions out of everyday happenings.

Think of me like a Willy Wonka for Aspen. I would say without the dark, child negligence/manslaughter tendencies, but who am I kidding? We’re in a pandemic; everything is going to have morbid undertones.

Without further ado, welcome to the big top, Aspen’s coronavirus carnival, including plenty of games and prizes that may require quarantine.

Supermarket shopping spree

The rona has turned casual trips to the grocery into free-for-alls with directional aisles and first-come, first-served battle royales. You want toilet paper that’s more than a step above tissue paper normally reserved for gift bags? Better get there early and be prepared to give Doris a shot to ribs.

Typical game show shopping sprees are timed to prevent contestants from systematically buying the choicest products. Instead of being on a time constraint to limit the amount you loot, you’re on a timer because every second that goes by you risk running into face maskless morons sampling nuts in the dispenser aisle or fondling and sniffing produce.

Once at the self-checkout, make sure to bag the groceries as fast as possible to avoid sideways glares from the attendant. Who cares if all your produce gets bruised and you have to throw out half your apples; it’s a game show, all the food is free, right?

Get in, get out and hope you got everything on your list so you don’t have to make an extra stop during the socially distanced lunch rush at Whole Foods.

Downtown is LAVA!!!

If you’re like most Americans, you’ve exhausted most everything on Netflix and are now turning to drivel. “Outlaw/King,” aka the sequel to “Braveheart,” starring Chris Pine? I’m all in on the King of the Scots. At this point every Netflix original movie premiere is less and less Lifetime movie and more and more Hollywood showcase.

Can I interest you in a glorified version of a game you played as children?

“The Floor is Lava” is maddeningly simple and endlessly entertaining. It’s begging for a spinoff, and I’m here to deliver on that dream.

I’ve been playing my own version of this game where you have to traverse about town while avoiding coming into contact with hoards of teenagers with mask around their neck.

“Can he get through the pedestrian mall without getting a face full of COVID? We’ll see if he remembered to use his face mask. The Texas trio opted out of masks and we all know what happened to them. *Cough* COUGH *cough*.”

The shortcuts and “hidden” helpers seem so obvious to the outsider but might as well be AP calculus to some of the idiots inside the game.

DON’T break the ice

The original game seems so harmless. If penguins break through the ice and fall into the ocean, it’s OK because they’re suited for freezing water. But upon closer inspection, the reality is there are killer whales and sharks waiting to kill and eat the plumpest, juiciest game bird of them all. (I’ve never had penguin but I imagine it’s like a chicken that’s already been brined.)

You think if they put penguin-eating animals under that fake tray of ice kids would be psyched to send “Happy Feet” to a saltwater grave? Hell no. Try explaining to little Johnny and Susie that Nemo gets eaten 87% of the time.

With each translucent blue cube that falls, the possibility of the ice giving way, like the summer season, increases. It turns out the hardest part of the new normal is convincing people that there actually is a new normal.

Seemingly meaningless taps of the mallet — a handshake, a hug, a family gathering — will eventually break it. The game is “Don’t Break the Ice,” not infect every town you visit.

It’s not solely visitors from the current U.S. hot spots, it’s everyone who gets to Aspen and whips off their masks like they were swimsuits at a nudist beach. Who will win the everlasting gobstopper? Hell, if you wear your mask, I’ll give you a king size Hershey bar myself.

If you opt to go without a face covering, I’ll give you a golden ticket back to where you came from. And those people in the orange suits ushering you out aren’t oompa loompas, they’re health care professionals in hazmat suits because you’re a walking biohazard.

Sean Beckwith is a copy editor at The Aspen Times. Reach him at sbeckwith@aspentimes.com.

Judson Haims: Diabetes and cardiovascular health are tied to oral care

When people think oral care, most do not associate it with diabetes and coronary heart disease.

This is not meant to be a sensational statement; it is fact. However, if it did capture your attention, you may be interested to know that your oral hygiene affects your overall health.

In effort to better understand the correlation between oral health and general health, it is important that we educate ourselves. They are interlinked and understanding how will provide insight to better over-all health.


The International Diabetes Federation has projected that by 2030, the number of people worldwide affected with diabetes will increase by almost 120 million. Globally, they predict that by 2045, people living with diabetes will increase by 51%. As such, diabetes represents a major health concern.

For people who are diagnosed with diabetes, it is estimated that about 22% have periodontal, or gum, disease. Emerging research suggests that gum disease may have the potential to affect blood glucose control and thus contribute to the progression of diabetes.

One of the links between diabetes and poor oral care stems from the glucose which is present in your saliva. When diabetes is not controlled, high glucose levels in your saliva help harmful bacteria grow which can lead to gum disease.

Procedures like root canals, crowns and other invasive procedures tend to enable bacteria and toxins present in your mouth to travel to other parts of your body and thus wreak havoc. This is one reason why dentists most often provide antibiotics when performing such these procedures.

The American Dental Association, and research facilities across the world indicated that when people with diabetes manage their oral care, they have much more success managing their blood sugar levels.

Cardiovascular diseases

The relationship between oral health to cardiovascular health is being studied at many research institutions. Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic believe that for people who have some congenital heart defects and artificial heart valves, the correlation between oral care and heart health does exist.

It is thought that periodontal disease symptoms like swollen and bleeding gums enable bacteria and toxins from your mouth to enter the blood stream. When this happens, the potential for the formation of fatty plaques in the arteries is elevated. These plaque deposits can lead to serious problems, such as blood clots, which can block blood flow and thus cause a stroke.

According to a report in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, people with periodontal disease may have a greater possibility to have a history of heart problems.

Make sure to inform your dentist of any heart issues you may have prior to having any oral procedures. Your dentist may need to provide you with antibiotics before they perform certain types of dental procedures.

Talk to your dentist

People who take blood thinning medications may need to stop taking these medicines before some dental procedures. These medications may inhibit with the body’s normal clotting ability which is of concern to dentists for procedures that cause bleeding. This is something your dentist may choose to discuss with you and your physician.

People who have angina and take calcium channel blockers as well as people who may take medications that have the side effect of causing dry mouth also should inform your dental provide before prior to an oral procedure.

Informing your dental provider of such concerns may allow them to suggest options and may prevent unnecessary concerns.

The correlation between oral care and overall health is hard to dispute. If your gums are red, swollen and sore to the touch, bleed when you eat, brush or floss, or you frequently have bad breath or notice a bad taste in your mouth, you may have greater concerns than just those pertaining to your mouth.

You can protect yourself from developing and exacerbating many health concerns by paying attention to your oral health.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Aspen, Basalt and Carbondale. He is an advocate for our elderly and is available to answer questions. His contact information is www.visitingangels.com/comtns and 970-328-5526.

Paul Andersen: The magnificent aspen clone metaphor

It is known as the “trembling giant,” an ancient and magnificent life form in south central Utah. More commonly known as Pando, this vast grove of aspens may be the single largest living organism on the planet.

Pando, the trembling giant, is made up of aspen trees that form an enormous clone in Utah’s Fish Lake Mountains. The trees that make up Pando have close cousins here in Aspen, which of course is named for aspen trees that proliferate in our mountains.

Aspen is the tree with eyes. Aspen is the tree whose chlorophyll bark provides winter feed for elk and deer and provides photosynthesis when the leaves have fallen. Aspen is the tree whose leaves quake and flutter in the slightest breeze and spread a confetti spectacle in autumn. Aspen is the tree of the mountains whose white bark stands stark against summer greenery and whose shadows stretch tall across the winter snowpack.

When I guide hikes for the Aspen Institute and Huts For Vets, I speak reverently of Pando as a metaphor for humanity. While aspens appear to grow as individual trees, certain stands are linked underground by a connective root system to a common “mother tree.”

And so it is with us. All human beings are linked by a common root system grounded in the essence and origins of life. I felt this poignantly on a bike tour across Israel eight years ago while pedaling down the West Bank of the Jordan River.

The Jordan Valley is an extension of the Great Rift Valley coming out of Africa to the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East where our common ancestral foundation was formed. While riding through this rift, my friend, Graeme, and I gazed up at the caves in the cliffs of the canyon walls.

“My ancestors may have weathered a storm in one of these caves,” I ventured to Graeme. Then it dawned on me. No, not only my ancestors, but the ancestors of us all might have sheltered in these caves as they ventured out to populate earth from the same fount of life in Africa.

If we are so linked, then why all the fighting? Why all the acrimony? Why all the divisions? The clones of Pando, the trembling giant, don’t fight among themselves. So, why does man?

William Wordsworth put it like this: “From her fair works did nature link the human soul that through me ran/And much it grieves my heart to think what man has made of man …” Man not only wars against himself; he wars against much of the living world.

The current issue of Aspen Idea Magazine, from the Aspen Institute, features an article about Pando. In “The Giving Tree,” Paul C. Rogers, Institute partner and ecologist, warns of a massive assault on planetary biodiversity, with Pando as an example.

Rogers and other scientists have determined that Pando may be dying. “Human decision-making … is a catastrophe of mismanagement by wildlife, forest, recreation and ranching” that has left Pando “foundering.” Rogers calls for an “essential, principled, unique” approach to creating “a lasting, ecologically-driven world.”

Today, the 14,000-year-old Pando and its 12,427 miles of interconnected roots is “breaking up,” says Rogers. Here is yet more evidence of the sorrowful legacy of human conduct in the face of things too large and too complex for us to understand or appreciate. Yet, we hubristically “manage” nature to satisfy us in the short term.

Rogers, director of the Western Aspen Alliance at Utah State University, is adding an ethical dimension to a natural organism estimated to weigh 13 million pounds, “a tree equal to the mass of 40 blue whales.”

Large bodies, explains Rogers, can grow from a single seed. A metaphorical seed also can evolve into big ideas — like conservation of the biosphere and awareness of the fragility of species with which we share the earth.

Wordsworth’s poetic soliloquy begs the eternal question: What has man made of man? It all comes to choice and the values that drive our choosing. Pando is the largest living metaphor we know. It solicits our love and caring as a necessity, calling on us to act as stewards.

Paul Andersen’s column appears on Mondays. He may be reached at andersen@rof.net.

Littwin: Because it’s 2020, Boebert’s stunning win seems like a natural

The easy take — which, strangely, is often the right take — on Lauren Boebert’s stunning upset of Rep. Scott Tipton in the Republican 3rd Congressional District primary is that the Colorado GOP, already on life support, is now trying to commit suicide.

It’s an understatement, actually, to call Boebert’s win stunning. According to those who have done the research (h/t Ernest Luning), Tipton — scandal-free, supported by Trump, votes 95% party line, a five-term incumbent — was the first such incumbent to lose in a Colorado primary in, uh, 48 years. That’s a lot of years. It’s 15 more years than Boebert has been on Earth.

And then when the news broke that Boebert had had some nice things to say about the QAnon conspiracy — which is so wacky that Alex Jones must wish he had invented it — the first thing that came to my mind was Christine O’Donnell, who had upset the establishment choice in Delaware in 2010, and later had to run an ad saying, “I am not a witch.” She cost Republicans a sure Senate seat, losing by 19 points.

Republican strategist Josh Penry had another Republican in mind. “To win,” he said of Boebert, “she has to be more Joni Ernst and less Sarah Palin. She needs to be less ideological and run more as the rugged outsider, which she can do.”

It’s difficult to know what to make of Boebert other than she fits perfectly into Trump World. All I knew about her was that she was a 33-year-old newbie who had splashed her way into national headlines by publicly challenging Beto O’Rourke on guns at an Aurora O’Rourke rally. She answered his “hell yes,” he’d take away people’s AR-15s and similar guns with her “hell no.” And I had learned that she owned a restaurant called Shooters Grill where the wait staff openly carry guns, and, of course, that she’s always packing, too. And that she had won even more anti-establishment headlines by opening her restaurant early in defiance of a statewide ban.

And in her stunning win, with very little money and very little establishment support, she had used her last TV ad, running in Pueblo and Grand Junction, to compare conservative Tipton to AOC — progressive icon Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — saying that he was “teaming up with AOC and her Squad.” Tipton had supported a, uh, radical bill that would allow coronavirus funds to go to cities with populations under 500,000, meaning every city in the 3rd CD. The charge may have been ridiculous, but it worked.

In other words, she was a Trump acolyte in waiting, whether Trump knew it or not. They’re already post-primary pals, particularly after Boebert, who met up with the Trump team at Mount Rushmore, said the only thing she’d change about the monument was to add Trump’s likeness. You can also see that fits neatly into Colorado GOP chair Ken Buck’s luckless version of the party. But if you’re a Democratic strategist, she’s something else altogether — an opportunity to win back the district. It’s not impossible. Democrat John Salazar, Ken’s brother, represented the 3rd CD from 2005 to 2011.

But give Boebert credit. She won the spotlight. She got attention. And it was no wonder that people call her “media-savvy.” And so she pulled off a huge upset.

And not just an upset. Boebert won nearly 55% of the vote. Staggering.

Cole Wist, the former state legislator who grew up in the 3rd CD, says he thinks Boebert is a perfect fit in the district. “When you ask if she’s a problem for the Republican Party,” he said, “the most important metric is whether she can win. I think she can, and I think she reflects the district very well.”

“She’s easy to dismiss, but those who dismiss her do so at their own peril,” Wist added.

Tipton has apparently now learned of that peril. But 2020 is no ordinary time to be running for anything. As Penry points out, it’s not just Trump who makes things different in Colorado. We’re solidly in the vote-by-mail era, in the primaries-open-to-unaffiliated-voters era. And in the 3rd CD, Penry notes, the roster of unaffiliated voters has grown from 36% of the electorate in 2014 to nearly 40% now.

“The system has changed,” Penry says. “The mail ballot and opening up the primaries allows more people to compete. And I think that with open primaries there are fewer people wedded to the red-blue BS. I think maybe the perception about Scott was like the Republican majority leader (Eric Cantor) who lost the primary in Virginia — a feeling that he maybe wasn’t as present as he should be.”

Boebert is present, but it may be possible to be too present as she takes on Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush, who lost to Tipton in 2018 by eight points. Running on guns is probably a winner in the district. But Boebert is now having to deny she’s a Q supporter. If you’re not up on your way-way-way-way-out-there right-wing conspiracies, this is the one in which Donald Trump is secretly doing battle with an international child-trafficking ring led by liberal politicians, Hollywood types and, of course, George Soros. It’s like Pizza-gate on steroids. To believe in this, you have to be either appallingly uninformed or at least slightly insane. Or both.

Boebert had done an interview with a Q-friendly web site, and if you read her quotes closely, it sounds like she may not have actually known what Q is, but thought that supporting Q was what an up-and-coming, Trump-supporting, gun-toting, right winger should do.

What she said was this: “I hope that this is real,” adding, “It only means America is getting stronger and better, and people are returning to conservative values and that’s what I am for.”

I don’t know what she actually thinks. But I do know her problem is that it will be difficult to unsay what she did say. I assume Bush and her supporters will be reminding voters of that comment from now until November.

The Cook Political Report looked at the race and moved it from Solid Republican to Likely Republican. But it’s more complicated than that. As matters stand today, Trump would lose Colorado in a possible landslide. Cory Gardner is trying desperately to both shake Trump while also embracing him. It’s a trick that even Gardner may not be able to master. John Hickenlooper is thought to be 10 points ahead of Gardner. And, as Republican strategists tell me, if Gardner can’t close the gap by Labor Day, there’s a great chance national Republicans, who now suddenly have so many Senate seats to defend, could write off Colorado.

Who knows? What we do know is that every Democrat in Colorado will be running against Trump — and that the way to bet is that most will win by doing so. And now, with a Trump sound-alike running in the 3rd, it is no conspiracy theory to believe that it has become the only competitive U.S. House district in the state.

Mike Littwin has been a columnist for too many years to count. He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.

Tony Vagneur: Home again, home again … maybe we just don’t know how

It was clearly pointed out to me the other day, the idea of returning home. Many people in Aspen have somewhere to return to, a place where they grew up, or lived before they came to Aspen. Many do return, some recoil at the idea, and likely for the majority, it is a sometimes-sentimental thought, not necessarily acted upon.

For days I watched them, a pair of mountain bluebirds, building a home in what the modern world likes to call a nest box. Not just any nest box, mind you, but one envisioned and hand-built by master bird house architect, Steve Gehring. In this age of labels, you might call him a constructionist recycler. And a former owner of Pinocchio’s. Otherwise known to thousands, if not more, of satisfied customers around the country as “Ecotiques Steve”.

It is a testament to bluebird ingenuity that they chose that particular bird house to nest in. It’s been hanging off my front porch for two or three years and I’ve kept an eye out for my first tenants. They arrived this spring, giving credence to the belief that bluebirds are very fussy and reclusive when it comes to temporary domiciles.

It was a success, their stopover at my place, breeding and raising three youngsters, by my best guess. I had their feeding schedule down rather well and grew accustomed to the pleading and squeaking peals from within. I miss them, but according to bird-watcher predictions, the parents may be back to raise another clutch.

What astonishment it was, however, the other night, when the three fledglings returned home. The freedom granted by their wings, darting about the wide, wonderful world under indigo blue skies, had not robbed them of their acknowledgement of their ancestral home.

They didn’t go in, and with the exception of one, didn’t stop on the figurative stoop, but they all touched the place with claw or beak before dallying in the tree opposite their now-deserted nursery. It’s hard to say, but they seemed quite happy — and I haven’t seen them since.

What do we get out of returning home? And what is “home” to each of us, anyway? As Robert Frost said, “Home is the place where when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” During the last recession, there was a lot of talk about returning home, as if things would be better there, wherever it was. In this coronavirus world, is there anywhere reliable that would take us in, if we had to go there?

For me, having lived here a lifetime of 70-odd years, there’s nowhere to go back to, but several years ago I had the unique experience of returning to live in the very house in which I grew up. I had my same childhood room back; the stairs still creaked the same and my closet still had the same little nook where I hid my teen-aged writing.

It was a house full of memories — my great-grandfather and grandfather had built it, in two different centuries: the end of one, the beginning of another — out of native logs milled on the ranch. There was a lot of history; memories of my granddad; mother and father, my siblings, cousins, and horses, cows, and experiences with friends and being alone. Putting up hay, riding the range. How fortunate I was as a youth.

But it wasn’t home. I hadn’t really returned home; I had returned to the house that was once my home. Very little had changed in the house, but the soul of my family was no longer there. I was on my own. Strange, but it was a cathartic experience that couldn’t be achieved in any other way and I am eternally grateful for the occurrence.

Forgiving my father for selling the place was an important genesis of the healing, but just being able to lay my head on my pillow in that boyhood room provided a psychological haven for me that couldn’t be found anywhere else. I could shed a ton of adult baggage, could relax and be that kid again as I walked out the back door, feeding animals or heading to the ski mountain. Damn!

As we should always remember, our kinship with the animal world is more important than many like to concede, but what of the bluebirds? They laid their lives open to me, right outside my living room window, giving me the opportunity to witness their almost every move.

I didn’t interfere with them, but oh, how their daily activities stirred my brain, from simple curiosity to delving deep into memories that can still shake my psyche, even a couple of weeks after they flew the coop.

Maybe we can’t go home again, but maybe we just don’t know how.

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at ajv@sopris.net.

Roger Marolt: It is part of the price we pay to live here

Is it too much to ask visitors to wear masks? I am afraid it might be. The right to be obstinate is part of what we offer to entice them. They behave the way we have conditioned them to. Come one, come all, with plenty of cash, and make yourselves at home. Relax. Relapse. Whatever you want. It’s Aspen!

Add disagreeable COVID-19 behavior to the list of anything goes. Visitors behaving badly is another cost of living here. It’s as real as the affordable housing shortage and the inexplicable price of gas. Should they yammer away on their cellphones on the gondola? Should they swoop parking spots in the City Market lot? Double park in front of The Wheeler? Do they need to be so demanding?

You can’t take any of this personally. You are the last thing they are thinking about. It takes everything they’ve got to concentrate on getting their money’s worth, here in the church of the tragically hip.

Do you really want to live here? If so, prepare for cold January days, June cottonwood allergies, and tourists irritating you. It is all part of the deal.

Rather than running around yelling at tourists to put masks on, a resident will do better staying away from perceived dangers in their wakes. It’s not hard. I don’t need to be anywhere near downtown except for work. I’m in, I’m out. Loitering for conversation can wait for better times. If not, we can meet somewhere out there, off the beaten path. This is part of the home field advantage. If you feel trapped in a mob on the mall, you might not be “local” enough yet. It doesn’t take 50 years to learn how to get away.

It is enough to know smart people are wearing masks. Science backs this up. Go ahead, play the fool on the hill, your lot in life being to put up patiently with the less enlightened. If Dr. Anthony Fauci and a bevy of incontrovertible statistics can’t convince someone that wearing a mask is smart when it is his job to do so, then how are you going to accomplish it by getting into a shouting match over it in front of Carl’s completely for the hell of it? Setting a good example is your best bet. Being a local is your ace in the hole. So many visitors would love to be mistaken for you and, for that reason, they watch. It’s better that they eventually rise to your example than you one day realizing you are absentmindedly carrying your skis tails first through Gondola Plaza.

I find comfort in looking at this situation and how I am reacting to it and telling myself, “I don’t see much chance of coming down with this thing.” It’s an honest evaluation. I haven’t been in any crowds. I don’t get within 6 feet of people. If the grocery store is crowded, I come back later. I don’t touch people, not even light, European double-cheek kissing. I wash my hands after everything and before most. I wear a mask. If I come down with this thing, it will be by an act of God and not of my own stupidity. This helps me sleep.

To make a place your home requires a committed love not unlike that found in a good marriage. First, you need to be observant enough to see the truth of what you are undertaking. Then, be honest enough to fully accept it. If you get past this part maintaining enthusiasm and embracing the town with all of its faults, you must then renounce any expectation of correcting those faults. Resolving not to try will make things better. If you can’t help yourself, keeping expectations low is compulsory.

Unless you have a vaccine recipe in your back pocket, you are not going to save the world from COVID-19, much less Aspen with its built-in imported attitude, so you might as well focus on saving yourself, your family and select friends who still nod along to your proselytizing after you’ve had one too many or who post encouragement on your Facebook page.

We don’t want to become bitter over this. We’ve suffered plenty already and there is simply too much else that could go wrong yet. It is out of our control, and by “it” I mean almost everything. Do what you can and then head deep into the woods for a good cry. This will help lighten the load.

Roger Marolt is not convinced a country with 5% of the world’s population and 25% of COVID-19 deaths can claim exceptionalism in all things. roger@maroltllp.com

Giving Thought: There is middle road to follow through pandemic

At the core of our country’s struggle with the Coronavirus pandemic is the delicate balance between “locking down” for health and safety reasons and “opening up” for economic and social reasons.

Whatever your politics and whatever your personal views on the matter, we can all agree that it’s a challenging balance to strike. When everyone in a community shelters in place, all commerce and social activity stops, which suppresses the spread of the virus at the expense of economic health and human contact. But if a community opens up too quickly, then the virus spreads, hospitals get overcrowded and more people get sick. To date, the virus has killed more than 130,000 Americans and 1,700 Coloradans.

In Pitkin County, at least, we are fortunate to have leaders who see both sides of this tricky equation. Our local officials are working diligently to both safeguard public health and to enable businesses and individuals to open their doors and enjoy the delights of summer in the mountains.

Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock has been at the center of this tug-o-war for several months and, despite the numerous challenges, he has a road map that leads, if not to normalcy, then at least to relative stability. The strategy represents a balance between complete lockdown and complete freedom; it calls on residents and visitors to “live with the virus” by observing certain now-familiar rules while also going about their lives inside and outside the home.

“If we’re not going to hide from the virus (by staying at home), then we’ve got to learn to live with it,” Peacock says. “So, as a community, we need to commit to not allowing this virus to reach the point where we have to shut down again.”

Think of it as “boxing in” the virus or containing the virus enough that local hospitals and clinics aren’t overwhelmed. If locals and visitors can follow five simple commitments, Peacock says, then he believes the community can keep the virus at bay and not lock down again, as people in Arizona, Texas and Florida have been forced to do.

The five commitments are simple: Frequent hand washing; wearing a mask in public; maintain social distance; stay home if sick; seek testing if you have symptoms.

“If we can follow these five commitments, we will limit the spread (of the virus),” Peacock says.

Four of these commitments are probably familiar already, but the fifth is equally crucial to the “box it in” strategy. If we’re willing to accept a few coronavirus cases in our midst as the price of a more open society, then those who have symptoms must get tested. And, if they’re found to be infected, they must cooperate with public-health authorities to identify who else might have come into contact with the infected person.

“When we move from virus suppression to living with the virus, infections do go up,” Peacock explains. “These commitments are small acts of courage to get some freedoms back and keep them.”

Yes, this is risky. Any opening of society during a pandemic presents a new risk of infection, and that risk is heightened in a valley that welcomes visitors from around the country and even the globe. However, if locals and guests can honor these commitments for one another, then we minimize the risk.

Pitkin County has a robust COVID-19 web page where readers can see all the latest statistics, including the number of cases in Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties, the status of beds at Aspen Valley Hospital and a weekly summary of COVID-19 testing results. Go to covid19.pitkincounty.com.

As this crisis evolves, I am continually grateful to live in a community where public officials are treating this pandemic like the emergency it is and making sound decisions based in fact and genuine care for their constituents. It’s not a cliché to repeat it: We are all in this together.

Tamara Tormohlen is executive director of Aspen Community Foundation.

Meredith C. Carroll: Aspen True or False — Summer 2020 edition

The surplus of current events has spurred the consumption of news at a much higher rate than any other time in recent history. Take the Summer 2020 Aspen True-or-False quiz to assess just how much you’ve managed to metabolize:

1. As soon as Colorado lifted its safer at home orders, Lance Armstrong and Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo appeared on Instagram posing for a socially distant photo on a local golf course.

FALSE. The maskless, arm-in-arm photo was taken at a golf course 342 miles from Aspen and posted amid a statewide mandate banning travel more than 10 miles from home for outdoor recreation.

2. It’s not just at special meetings that Aspen City Councilman Skippy Mesirow attends via Zoom while wearing a blazer and walking on a treadmill: it’s at all the meetings.


3. The speed limit on Smuggler Road has increased to 45 mph from 10.

FALSE. Unless you’re driving with a Texas plate. Texans have special dispensation, apparently.

4. Wearing a facemask wrapped around your wrist protects against COVID-19.

TRUE. Ask mostly everyone hiking the Ute Trail.

5. Following her Republican primary victory against incumbent U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton in Colorado’s 3rd Ccongressional District, Lauren “the dog who caught the car” Boebert was taken against her will to President Donald Trump’s July 3 campaign rally at Mount Rushmore, where she was forced to pose for a promotional photo with Eric and Lara Trump.

FALSE. Boebert alleges that her participation was 100% voluntary.

6. The East and West Coasters who have escaped to Aspen during the pandemic are blending in seamlessly.


7. “Who?” Aspen High School’s Class of 2020 collectively asked upon hearing that Jimmy Buffet recorded a special graduation video in their honor.


8. A groundbreaking study found that Aspen officially surpassed Canada in ridiculous niceness when it posted signs around town that went out of their way to tell people to let their masks “slide” while recreating outside.


9. A genetic link has been discovered that connects E-bike entitlement on singletrack trails with white privilege.

FALSE, technically. Anecdotally, though, it’s a whole other story.

10. Everyone thinks that the city of Aspen actively asking “informed residents” to “remind visitors they must comply with all local laws” is a swell idea.

FALSE. Not one person thinks this.

11. There are some very smart people who are actively monitoring what’s happening around town and, using a combination of hope, prayer, facts, figures and critical medical and scientific data, speculate that there’s only a small chance Aspen will need to shut down entirely again.

FALSE. No one thinks the chance is small.

12. How Aspen should and will navigate safely and lucratively through the current health and economic crises will be decided in the Facebook comments.

TRUE. Just ask the commenters.

13. You don’t look at all like a not-cute Dumbo when wearing the kind of facemask that simultaneously smushes down and pushes out your ears.

TRUE. (Not actually true, but you still need to wear the mask.)

14. The sparkly new boxes at the Snowmass Village post office remain empty months after they were installed, all while residents continue standing in a coronavirus line to receive packages.

TRUE. The Snowmass Village post office may yet emerge as the eighth wonder of the world.

15. Traffic and speeding have increased locally because people have places to be and things to do.

FALSE. We’re in the middle of a pandemic; almost everyone has nowhere to be.

16. There’s always been a special place in hell reserved for bicycle thieves, but an ordinance has been passed allowing even more fuel to be thrown on the fire if you’re caught stealing someone’s bike during a global pandemic and recession.

TRUE. Or at least it should be.

17. The city of Aspen has shut its border to all Arizonans indefinitely, effective immediately.

FALSE. However, it’s not a terrible idea.

18. Local parents are kind of hoping that the Aspen schools don’t return for in-person classes next month because so far it’s been a ton of fun having the kids home for 2,832 consecutive hours.


More at MeredithCarroll.com and on Twitter @MCCarroll.

She Said, He Said: Strong partnership relies on working through marriage turbulence upon arrival

Dear Lori and Jeff,

My husband travels often for business, which in itself is not an issue. He loves his work, and I enjoy having my independence while he’s gone. Where we struggle is the adjustment period each time he comes back home. For several days we seem like oil and water before we find our groove. Once we’re back in sync our relationship is great, but these good periods are too fleeting because the next flight is always just around the corner. I’m sad that we waste so much time being short with each other. How can we reconnect more quickly to enjoy more of our time together?


Up in the Air

Dear UITA,

Lori and Jeff: Relationships in which one partner travels require more communication of needs and expectations. When we’re away from our partners, we tend to create stories about what they want from us. Even if we’re coming from a place of love and care, acting from those assumptions can lead to major misunderstandings. In order to reconnect more smoothly, you’re going to have to get real about how much you don’t know.

Lori: Oil and water can mix, it just requires you to put in a little more consistent energy to shake things up. Start by having conversations before he walks in the door. In the days leading up to his arrival home, begin checking in with one another about where each of you are physically, emotionally, mentally and energetically. Be direct about your needs and wants and cut through murky gray areas that are built on assumptions. I suspect you’ll quickly find patterns as to what each of you needs during that transition time — needs that have gone unspoken and have contributed to the tension you’ve been cycling through as a couple.

You also may need to take steps individually to shift into sharing mode. We all know that having a home to yourself brings about a unique sense of freedom: You do what you want, when you want, and can sashay through the day to your own rhythm. Twenty-four hours before your husband gets home, start being proactive about sliding back into cohabitation mode. Be mindful of the routines you have together and get a head start easing yourself into them.

Jeff: Look at your expectations. What are you wanting from your husband as he walks through the door? If you believe that he should be the one to initiate the re-engagement because he’s the one who’s been away, it could be making it more difficult to reconnect. Is there any resentment about his absences that might tip those responsibilities his way? Are there parenting roles or household duties that fall on your shoulders, because of his schedule, that you feel are an unfair burden? Spend some time listening to your inner narrative and see if there are whispers of discontent that might lead to the immiscible situation when your husband returns home.

On another note, your marriage is benefiting from the honeymoon-like cycles of being together for short periods of time and then being apart again. Although you struggle to reconnect when your husband returns home, you also don’t face the challenges of falling into the ruts and routines of taking each other for granted that many couples do. Learn to appreciate the freshness that your situation affords as it brings new energy into your relationship every time he comes home.

Lori and Jeff: The key to successfully navigating any unique relationship arrangement is to be really clear and direct about your wants and expectations. Don’t put the responsibility on your partner to be a mind reader, or stay in a pattern of just muddling through. Instead, create a culture in your marriage in which the norm is for each of you to reflect on your internal experiences and be proactive in working as a team to meet each other’s needs.

Lori and Jeff are married, licensed psychotherapists and couple-to-couple coaches at Aspen Relationship Institute. Submit your relationship questions to info@AspenRelationshipCoaching.com and your query may be selected for a future column. For more relationship advice, subscribe to our “Love Matters” podcast on iTunes.

John Colson: With Scott Tipton out, now it’s Diane Mitsch Bush time

By now, it’s no longer news that Colorado’s U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CD3), who has represented the sprawling 3rd Congressional District for five terms, is now a lame duck and, I hope, will soon be little more than a vague footnote in Colorado politics.

But I’m hoping that, in a few months, the reality of Tipton’s loss will result in a different kind of news item, confirming Colorado’s ongoing tidal change in politics from red to purple to blue, with the election of former Colorado state legislator Diane Mitsch Bush to Tipton’s seat in Congress.

Tipton’s ouster, from a seat where he had been considered invincible, has come about thanks to Lauren Boebert, owner of Shooters Grill (wait staff openly carry guns) in the city of Rifle and a recent target of state reprisals for her defiance of Colorado’s spate of regulations aimed at curbing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Boebert will now face Mitsch Bush, who lost to Tipton in 2018 (51% to 43%) but is now in a good position to take back a seat that has bounced three times between Democrats and Republicans since 1980, until Tipton took it away from former Rep. John Salazar, a Democrat, in 2010, by a margin of 50% to 45%.

According to published reports, Mitsch Bush, who moved to Routt County in 1976, was a two-term Routt County commissioner, then represented Routt County and Eagle County in the State House of Representatives for three terms (2013 to 2017). While in the House she was chair of the Transportation and Energy Committee and vice chair of Agriculture and Natural Resources. She also served on the Joint House-Senate Water Committee for five years.

She was a tenured professor at Colorado State University and she also worked on the faculty at Colorado Mountain College, where she taught and did research for 11 years.

Boebert, a political newcomer and gun-rights activist, has been quoted in news stories as having positive feelings about the conspiracy-theory babble-brook known as QAnon, which has been pushing all manner of idiotic, untrue and destructive story lines for the past few years, ranging from the Pizzagate lies about Hillary Clinton and a supposed baby mill run out of a Washington, D.C., pizza parlor, to boosting the myth that there is a shadowy “deep state” conspiracy against President Donald Trump and his minions, among other wacky notions.

In any event, Boebert is a bit of a right-wing extremist, though one with sufficient political savvy to convince a majority of GOP voters in CD3 that she can do a better hatchet job in Washington than Tipton ever managed.

She also apparently has sufficient sense to not go whole-hog with her support for QAnon and other extreme white-supremacy promoters, instead saying only that it’s her mom’s fault that she even knows about QAnon, because her mom is more “fringe” than Boebert herself.


I have to say, I was completely surprised by Boebert’s victory, though an uncomfortable portion of the CD3’s population has long been known to harbor a deep love for all things right wing, a tendency I personally observed starting with Ronald Reagan’s 1980 appearance before a noisy, huge throng of supporters at the Grand Junction airport on his way to becoming president. The volume and frenzy of the crowd was frightening proof that the inmates were eager to take control of the asylum.

Fast forward to 2020, and these same nuts are still going strong in the region’s Republican circles.

I’ve been watching Tipton’s arc of success in regional politics over the years, and concluded early on that he was a nasty bit of work and a potentially dangerous addition to the state’s Republican parade of characters and charlatans.

First off, he was elected during the evil days of the racist backlash against President Barack Obama, when the GOP took back control of the House of Representatives, and as such the tone of Tipton’s public pronouncements immediately took on the color and temperament of his party’s attacks on the president and everything Obama wanted to do.

For the past decade Tipton has marched right along with just about any far-fetched theory or policy hatched by an increasingly untethered Republican party, and for the past three-and-a-half years has been a loyal soldier in Trump’s army of intellectually challenged, morally crippled administration.

In tracking emailed alerts and announcements from his office, I’ve noticed that above all else he strove to be noncontroversial in most things. He would offer up legislation that was designed to be inoffensive, pallid in its political positioning: a veritable smorgasbord of milquetoast lawmaking.

In Trump time, he has never challenged the president on even the most egregious policies or proposals, including the federal government’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, a lack of spine and common sense that is startling for what it reveals about Tipton’s own thought processes (or lack thereof.)

Now, Boebert comes along and declares that she will hew to Trump’s line of illogic far more closely than Tipton ever did.

Well, I guess that gives us a good starting point for the coming campaign, and my most fervent wish is that the best woman (Mitsch Bush, if you had any doubts) will win out in the end.

Email at jbcolson51@gmail.com.