Pitkin County remains in Orange zone for coronavirus restrictions
Pitkin County will remain at level Orange on the COVID-19 dial, which is high risk but less severe than the state’s Red restrictions.
An official with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment warned last week that the agency may have to move Pitkin County to the Red level, which would shut down indoor dining and retail stores, and just allow essential businesses to be open.
That was because the county incidence curve had been in the red level metrics for six days in the middle of November. If it had remained there for another eight days, which would have been Nov. 27, the state would consider the move to red.
However, the state also has to consider the county’s positivity rate and the number of hospitalizations, along with the incidence rate.
The state classifies each county on its color-coded COVID-19 Dial according to incidence rate, positivity rate and the number of hospitalizations. Any county that remains in the Red level on two or more of those metrics for 14 consecutive days is moved to the next level.
Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock said on Friday that the incidence rate, which is based a population of 100,000, was at 597. That is slightly higher than it was when CDPHE addressed the Pitkin County Board of Public Health on Nov. 19.
But the county’s positivity rate as of Friday was only 5.3%; 15% is what triggers the Red level, Peacock noted.
“We are a pretty long ways off on that,” he said.
Aspen Valley Hospital also remains in the comfortable status, with one COVID-related admission as of Friday, according to Dave Ressler, the hospital’s CEO.
Time will tell whether Pitkin County goes to the Red level as cases surge in surrounding counties, and who those ignored warnings about holiday travel and informal gatherings contribute to the spread of coronavirus.
The incidence curve on Friday in neighboring Eagle and Garfield counties was 800 and 1,000, respectively. In Summit County, the incidence curve was 1,300 and in Mesa County, 1,500.
“It’s all around us,” Peacock said. “The state has experienced a spike.”
As Pitkin County remains on the Orange level, which restricts restaurants to be at 25% capacity and retail at 50%, the business community and local governments are working collaboratively to have visitors sign an affidavit that has them acknowledging local public health orders and to follow the five commitments to containment — stay 6 feet apart, wash hands often, wear a mask, stay at home when sick and get tested if feeling ill.
The affidavits are expected to be in people’s hands by Dec. 14.
“They will be helping us to inform, not as an enforcer,” Peacock said. “We want to create a bubble with our visitors.”
Locals are asked to work from home if they can, and if they can’t, they should check their symptoms daily and get tested if they have any COVID-related symptoms.
COVID testing is expanding with two more sites expected soon, one at Snowmass Town Hall starting on Tuesday, according to the scheduling calendar by the provider, Roaring Fork Neurology. Another free testing site near the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport is expected to be operational next week.
Currently, free testing is being done at the community center in El Jebel and behind Aspen City Hall.
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The majority of COVID-19 public health order complaints in Aspen have been around masks, restaurants and social distancing.