Pitkin County officials urge honesty about illnesses as county building set to open | AspenTimes.com
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Pitkin County officials urge honesty about illnesses as county building set to open

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S. According to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, a wide share of Americans are at least moderately confident in U.S. health officials’ ability to handle emerging viruses, and more express concern about catching the flu than catching the new coronavirus. (NIAID-RML via AP)

Pitkin County’s office building on Main Street in Aspen is scheduled to reopen in early July though county commissioners are worried about the public’s honesty when it comes to a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

The Sheriff’s Office and the Clerk and Recorder’s Office on the building’s first floor, which attract the most activity from the public, will reopen July 6, said Rich Englehart, assistant county manager. Other offices on the second and third floors, including the Treasurer and Assessor’s offices, also will open at the same time at 50% capacity.

Officials also are planning on opening the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners meeting room on the first floor July 14 so the public can attend public hearings and other official business in person, County Manager Jon Peacock said. The county also will continue the option for the public to watch the meetings online for members of groups vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus and others, he said.

Pitkin County’s building has been closed to the public since mid-March because of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, investigators with the county’s contact tracing and investigation staff are holding twice-weekly meetings with their counterparts in Garfield and Eagle counties to keep tabs on midvalley and downvalley outbreaks and their relation to Pitkin County, Peacock said. The team also holds weekly meetings with officials from the state public health department as well, he said.

Information about current positive COVID-19 cases in Pitkin County can be found by going to the county’s main website at pitkincounty.com and clicking on the “Covid Stats” tab.

Commissioner George Newman raised the issue of the recent outbreak among young people in the Basalt area and said he doesn’t think members of that group are taking virus prevention measures seriously. He said he’s seen groups of young people who are “extremely casual” about social distancing, which is leading to sickness that can be transmitted to parents and members of vulnerable populations.

Peacock warned again that contact tracing in Pitkin County is only as strong as residents and visitors allow it to be. If people and visitors test positive but are not honest with contact investigators about their contacts, the system will break down, he said.

If outbreaks become out of control, the county will be forced to reimpose “more draconian health orders” to try to stem the infection, Peacock said.

“We really need people to be honest with us,” he said. “It’s something we owe to each other during a pandemic. We’re not trying to punish people.”

Any Aspen or Pitkin County visitor or resident with COVID-19 symptoms must get tested immediately at Aspen Valley Hospital, according to county guidelines. The test must be referred through a primary care physician or by calling AVH at 970-279-4111 for a test referral.

jauslander@aspentimes.com


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