Pitkin County prepares for coronavirus, activates emergency public health team
Pitkin County officials have activated an emergency public health team in anticipation of the arrival of the coronavirus in the Roaring Fork Valley.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Colorado had seen no confirmed cases of the virus — which began in China — but that could change any day, according to Carlyn Porter, the county’s emergency response and epidemiology administrator, who briefed county commissioners on the subject Tuesday.
Officials recently activated the Public Health Incident Management Team with Public Health Director Karen Koenemann as commander, Porter said.
Officials have been coordinating with the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, Aspen Valley Hospital, Aspen Skiing Co., Aspen School District and the Aspen Ambulance District in preparation for when and if the virus arrives, she said.
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Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock also has been working with regional governments, including Garfield and Eagle counties, to coordinate any responses, Porter said.
Valerie MacDonald, Pitkin County’s emergency manager, said the team will continue to monitor the coronavirus situation and be ready to respond if cases are detected in the area.
Screening will not be set up at the Aspen airport because travelers coming here will already have been screened, Porter said. Commissioner Patti Clapper said she wanted more information about what the base operator handling private flights is doing on the coronavirus front.
PENNY HOT SPRINGS PLAN APPROVED
Members of the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails board approved a new management plan Tuesday for Penny Hot Springs near Carbondale.
The plan will include clarifying the parking situation and reducing the number of spaces to 10, installing a portable bathroom with a shelter on a trial basis, building a defined trail to the springs next to the Crystal River and installing signs detailing rules for using the springs and information about the area. Officials also may install an emergency call box at the springs or nearby because the area lacks cell service.
Most of the plan, however, is contingent on the county securing a lease from the Colorado Department of Transportation for the Highway 133 right-of-way where most people park to use the springs. Open Space Board Chairman Howie Mallory urged county commissioners, who also attended Tuesday’s meeting, to help nudge CDOT officials along to sign the lease as soon as possible so the management plan can be implemented.
The port-a-potty is the most controversial aspect of the plan and will require open space staff to monitor who uses the bathroom. It will be meant for hot springs users and not for highway drivers.
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Aspen residents, workers up and down the valley and area businesses could benefit from the city of Aspen’s recently passed $6 million emergency relief and economic stimulus package.