Pitkin County to hire more public health staff for tracing, other efforts to fight pandemic | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County to hire more public health staff for tracing, other efforts to fight pandemic

Electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020.
Coronavirus Outbreak

Pitkin County commissioners gave a preliminary thumbs-up Tuesday to plans to spend nearly $300,000 this winter to hire three more people to deal with COVID-19-related issues.

However, the net impact to the county’s bottom line could be zero because of expected reimbursement funds from the federal government’s CARES Act, said Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock.

The county wants to hire an additional contact-tracing specialist who may focus on the school district during the upcoming winter term, as well as an additional financial analyst, he said. In addition, the county is planning to hire a “testing and vaccine analyst” to handle the logistics that are expected to come along when a COVID-19 vaccine is approved.

The two analyst positions will cost nearly $108,000 a year each with benefits, while the contact tracer job is estimated to cost nearly $82,000 with benefits, according to Peacock’s budget estimates Tuesday. The three new positions — which the county will begin recruiting for immediately — bring the total number of full-time jobs at the Pitkin County Public Health Department to 25, said Karen Koenemann, public health director.

The department was only 3 years old at the start of the pandemic this spring, when it had just five full-time employees.

Pitkin County is planning to apply to the state of Colorado for a piece of a $29 million pot reserved for all counties in the state except the five largest, he said. While the county has estimated it could apply to be reimbursed for between $2.5 million and $3 million in already spent COVID-related funds, it will likely receive somewhere between $350,000 and $1 million, Peacock said.

County officials believe they will most likely receive somewhere around $750,000, he said.

Of that money, municipalities of Aspen, Snowmass Village and Basalt will receive 45% and the county will receive 55%.

Meanwhile, Wednesday marks the first day of Pitkin County’s alignment with the Safer At Home Level 2 state public health order, which features so-called “medium restrictions.” The main difference will be in the allowed group size, which will jump from 50 to 100 people for indoor events and as many as 175 people at outdoor events. Those events must file safety plans with public health and receive a permit.

The maximum informal group size will remain at 10 people. Last call for alcohol also remains at 11 p.m.

In addition to continuing to require businesses and events to file those safety plans, Pitkin County requires all residents and visitors to comply with contact-tracing investigation and follow any subsequent isolation or quarantine orders. The county also requires visitors to be free of COVID-19 symptoms for 10 days before traveling here. Finally, businesses that take guest reservations are required to inform visitors that they must comply with any contact-tracing investigations, isolation or quarantine orders and pay for extra time spent in Aspen or Pitkin County as a result of those orders.

Pitkin County already aligns with most of the state public health order guidelines.


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