COVID-19 cases are again on the rise in Pitkin County
Community transmission level is rated high
The rate of community transmission of COVID-19 in the Aspen area is sitting in the high level, with 32 cases reported to Pitkin County Public Health in the past seven days.
The incidence rate, which this week is almost 200 cases per 100,000 people, is one measurement used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the community’s transmission level. The other is the COVID-19 hospital admission rates and beds occupied by people with the virus.
On Thursday, Aspen Valley Hospital’s status was sitting at “comfortable.”
“We have six individuals who have been hospitalized over the last 28-day period,” said Carly Senst, COVID-19 response and epidemiology program administrator for Pitkin County Public Health. “This includes individuals who have been hospitalized because of COVID and those who have been hospitalized for other reasons but are positive for COVID as well.”
She noted that numbers do not reflect those currently hospitalized since they could change by the hour with new intakes or discharges.
Also on Thursday the free testing site reopened at the Aspen airport cellphone lot, which is the only location where PCR tests are offered at no charge.
The downtown Aspen site at the Armory Building last week transitioned from free to $120 for same-day testing.
Senst said results from the PCR tests at the airport kiosk take between 36 and 48 hours to get back, and the change to the downtown location is a result of state and federal funding.
The county was able to secure funding for the location at the airport through the summer, and governmental entities are in negotiations for the fall.
Free Binax at-home antigen tests continue to be available at the Pitkin County and Basalt libraries while supplies last.
Senst said community transmission is high as the virus continues to mutate and a lot of people gathered for the Fourth of July weekend.
“Where we are now, this is the most complicated part of the pandemic,” she said, adding that people’s sense of security is likely stronger if they’ve received their two immunization shots and the two available boosters.
But people should consider the risks they could bring to those who are more vulnerable due to age and health risks, Senst noted.
“Risk management is key,” she said. “It’s up to each individual to mitigate their own risk.”
The vaccination rate in Pitkin County is over 80% and there is evidence that boosters work, according to health officials.
“We see higher antibodies in people who are boosted,” Senst said, adding that there are less severe infections at the hospital due to the high number of people who are vaccinated.
According to county public health officials, there has been a common misconception that if a person gets infected with COVID-19 once, their immune system will build its own natural immunity to protect them from contracting the virus in the future.
That is one reason why many individuals choose not to get a COVID-19 booster shot, even if many months have passed since they were last ill with COVID-19 symptoms.
According to the latest statistics on the county’s website, there have been five reinfections reported in the past seven days and 318 since March 1, 2020, when the pandemic first began.
Another round of vaccination clinics begins next week in the Roaring Fork Valley and runs through July 26.
In addition, Pitkin County Public Health is hosting a virtual town hall meeting at 6 p.m. on July 13 to answer public questions about child vaccinations.
Senst said it’s an open forum for parents who have questions and to have conversations with health specialists about efficacy, brands and any other concerns.
“We want parents to be able to have their questions answered,” she said.
The chief operating officer of RH recently said the retailer’s presence will invigorate downtown Aspen by day and wake it up at night, but they’ll need some help from the Aspen Historic Preservation Commission.
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