Aspen officially under a state of emergency amid COVID-19
With just a handful of chairs spaced out 6 feet from one another in the basement of City Hall to signal the practice of social distancing amid the COVID-19 community spread, Aspen City Council on Friday voted unanimously on a resolution declaring a local disaster emergency.
“The city of Aspen declared a state of emergency for two reasons, one is to make the city eligible for regional, state and federal resources we wouldn’t have had access to otherwise,” said Mayor Torre during a special meeting. “The second reason is to signal to our community that we are being as proactive as possible to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”
City Manager Sara Ott said another benefit of declaring a state of emergency is that the municipal government is one of the first to make such a move, which may give priority for any state and federal funding that could pay for paid sick leave for hourly workers who are forced to stay home for the recommended 14 days if they have symptoms of COVID-19.
The emergency declaration is after 10 Australian visitors tested positive for COVID-19 this week.
They are currently in self-isolation and will be able to leave when they pass two consecutive tests 24 hours apart.
Council’s three meetings scheduled for next week are canceled and will be rescheduled.
Council also passed a second resolution allowing virtual meetings to occur in the future, held electronically either by audio or video feed.
The city Thursday closed some of its facilities like the Wheeler Opera House and the Aspen Recreation Center until March 31.
Ott said she and staff spent most of Friday assisting the local business community and restaurants on how to operate during a tri-county public health order that prohibits gatherings of more than 50 people.
“We’ve been providing support through our environmental health team for those restaurant owners in particular, as they need to contemplate possible changes in their kitchen operations,” she said.
Ott also noted she has committed city personnel to the county’s incident management team for whatever needs it has.
City Hall is open for essential services. If people do not need to come in person to the city’s buildings they are being asked not to.
Council members, who had hand sanitizer, wipes and Lysol spray positioned in front of them, said they are trying to lead by example in taking precautionary measures to avoid the virus.
“I think we all have to be better safe than sorry right now,” Councilwoman Rachel Richards said.
Torre said it’s a time to unite.
“I want to say to the entire Aspen community residents, businesses and our guests, we care about you,” he said. “Your health and safety are top priority during this unprecedented time of the spread of COVID-19.
“This is unprecedented not just in Aspen, but in our country and our modern world,” Torre continued. “Governments locally, statewide and federally are facing challenges we have never faced before. Here in Aspen we are facing it with level heads, proactive measures and compassion for all those involved.”
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