No Fourth of July events but big crowds expected in Aspen
With no formal Fourth of July events planned this holiday weekend, local officials throughout the Roaring Fork Valley are sounding the alarm bell that people need to avoid social gatherings because current trends signal that is where the highly contagious novel coronavirus is spreading.
“I’m worried about gatherings … they are giving us the greatest pause,” said Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock, adding that local public health officials are asking people to reduce their interactions with others by 60% to slow the spread of the virus in the community.
Current public health orders have restaurants and businesses in Aspen at 50% capacity, with a midnight curfew to close shop and a mandate for people to wear masks when they cannot maintain a 6-foot distance from one another.
Aspen City Council members this week said they expect visitors to follow local laws, including public health orders aimed at containing the disease in an effort to keep the economy open and not tax Aspen Valley Hospital.
Both the city and county governments will have increased presence in the downtown core and around high-traffic trails and trailheads this weekend, ensuring that people understand local public health orders.
City Manager Sara Ott told council members Tuesday that they will see more community resource officers and city staffers in the downtown area over the weekend to keep tabs on crowds and social distancing behaviors.
The Aspen Chamber Resort Association has added a team of ambassadors who will walk around town daily educating visitors of the public health orders and handing out “Aspen Essential” COVID-19 kits, complete with a face mask, hand sanitizer and a note about the county’s “Five Commitments to Containment” — maintaining 6 feet of distancing; washing hands often; wearing a mask in public; staying home when sick; and seeking testing immediately and self report if anyone is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
“We’re excited to have a really strong presence in the downtown core offering visitor information … and really proactively engaging the visitors to make sure they are familiar with our local guidelines, being cognizant that visitors are coming from different counties, different states, guidelines are different everywhere,” said Sarah Reynolds Lasser, senior director of business development, at ACRA’s board meeting this week.
Peacock and other officials have said they are challenged with a significant portion of the visiting population that’s not complying with mask-wearing or social distancing.
“This is a challenge with a federal message that is not consistent, or in the state or even in the valley,” Peacock said of varying public health orders. “We are finding this to be a big problem to overcome.”
In Garfield County, where there were 300 cases as of Thursday, have officials worried in Carbondale with more than 60 of its residents having tested positive for COVID-19.
The town issued a public service announcement this week urging people to not be complacent about the public health orders that have kept the local community safe since for the past three months.
“As we enter the Fourth of July holiday weekend, we each must acknowledge the sobering reality that COVID-19 is on the rise in our community,” a letter from Carbondale Mayor Dan Richardson reads. “If this upward trend continues, it means everyone is at a greater health risk, our health care facilities may be over-burdened and Garfield County’s variance that allows greater local control of health orders will be revoked.
“Nothing resulting from this trend is good for our local businesses that are already struggling.”
Eagle County officials on Thursday updated their rules on masks and they are mandatory in public places inside and outdoors; part of the midvalley including Basalt and El Jebel are in in Eagle County.
“We are taking this step now to protect the progress we’ve made, as well as our near- and long-term goals of a successful school year, ski season and beyond,” said Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry. “We believe the potential inconvenience of wearing masks is a small price to pay to protect that future.”
Gov. Jared Polis issued a statement Thursday urging people to be responsible while celebrating America’s birthday.
“Whether Coloradans are enjoying our great outdoors or having a cookout, people should celebrate this 4th of July by staying on the trail that leads to suppressing the virus and rebuilding our economy,” he said in a statement. “This Independence Day is a time to celebrate our freedom that so many fought to gain, but with freedom comes responsibility, so please exercise personal responsibility, use common sense, and err on the side of caution.”
Every community in the valley has canceled their Fourth of July events, from parades to picnics to fireworks, to avoid gatherings of more than 50 people, which is the current public health order limit.
But ACRA is still holding its window-decorating contest for the Fourth. ACRA will hand out $500 in cash prizes to businesses in the categories of Best Overall, Most Patriotic and Most Original.
The 34th annual Boogie’s Buddy Race and 21st Annual Bash for the Buddies, both major fundraisers for the Buddy Program during the July 4 holidays, are being held virtually.
Registrants can run a 5-mile or a 5K, or walk 1 mile with their friends and family to celebrate the Fourth and support the Buddy Program. The virtual race runs through July 4. Registration can be found at buddyprogram.org.
The family resort of Snowmass Village is gearing up for its first Ice Cream Anti-Social on the Fourth.
Instead of meeting up for the traditional community celebration and concert, ice cream delivery will occur on the streets and neighborhoods throughout Snowmass Village. More details are at gosnowmass.com.
Establishing an understanding of Aspen residents’ own contribution to tourism woes was a significant takeaway from the Aspen Chamber Resort Association’s Annual Tourism Outlook on Tuesday at the Lauder Seminar Room of the Koch Building on the Aspen Institute campus.