Pitkin County closing more facilities as COVID cases spike
County services will be available either by phone or online
More Pitkin County facilities are closing to the public starting Thursday as COVID cases continue to skyrocket in Aspen and the county as well as the influx of visitors, officials said Wednesday.
The county also is dealing with staffing issues because of infections or exposures, according to a news release sent Wednesday. Earlier this week the county asked its employees to work from home if they could. The omicron variant combined with high visitor traffic has driven local incident rates very high, officials said.
“Pitkin County continues to be hit hard with incidence rates, but so far hospitalizations remain low. Like many employers in the Roaring Fork Valley, Pitkin County is experiencing a significant number of employees who are out because they are isolating or have been exposed,” County Manager Jon Peacock said in the release. “Community members can access many services online or over the phone.”
The closures or operation changes will remain in effect until at least Jan. 17.
The Pitkin County administration building on Main Street is closed, but the departments are available by phone or online, including the Clerk’s Office, Human Services, Public Health, Community Development and Assessor’s Office. The Sheriff’s Department’s main office is closed to walk-ins.
The Public Works building is closed, and earlier this week the Pitkin County Library closed its doors. The Aspen-Pitkin County Airport as well as the landfill remain open with normal operations. The courthouse remains open, and any changes there would be up to the court system.
For more information on how to reach the departments, go to pitkincounty.com.
In a follow-up interview Wednesday, Peacock said via email the county is staying with the mitigation matrix the Pitkin County Board of Health adopted in November.
That states any possible shutdown would be based off pressure on Aspen Valley Hospital. Currently, AVH is in the “concerning” level (which is the highest level) for staffing because of infections or quarantining due to exposure, but its other measures of average daily visits/inpatient hospitalizations and transfer capacity remain in “cautious“ levels.
Hospital and public health officials meet every Wednesday afternoon, and AVH spokesperson Jennifer Slaughter said as of Wednesday evening there are no hospitalized patients due to COVID.
For a stay-at-home order to be put in place, the hospital would have to go to the “concerning” level in the capacity metric and then establish a “hospital crisis standards of care.” The scenario would mean the hospital is receiving more patients than it can care for or transfer out, and must decide who gets the precious ICU beds and ventilators available, Pitkin County Public Health Director Jordana Sabella said in November.
“We are in regular communication with AVH about their status, and while we are all stressed by the high incidence rates, and workers out, we remain cautiously optimistic we won’t have to move to additional capacity restrictions,” Peacock said Wednesday. “However, it would be really helpful, that likelihood is reduced by all of us doubling down on ensuring indoor masking and following the healthy best practices.”
Before a possible shutdown, the county would first enact indoor capacity limits to 50% or 100% vaccination verification (schools are excluded). Those measures would only be triggered if the hospital has to suspend elective surgeries.
The incident rate on Wednesday dropped to 1,504 cases per 100,000 residents, and the positivity rate was 31.2% as of Monday, according to the county’s COVID-19 dashboard. Over the weekend the incident rated topped 1,600.
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