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Pitkin County virus cases expected to spike after Labor Day

Pitkin County public health officials are anticipating an increase in COVID-19 cases after the Labor Day holiday weekend, though they’re hoping any bump will be less than the spike seen after the Fourth of July.

“There will definitely be a bump,” Josh Vance, a Pitkin County epidemiologist, told members of the Pitkin County Board of Health on Thursday. “The question is how big a bump. We’re thinking it will look somewhat similar to the (increase after) the Fourth of July.”

Cases in Pitkin County surged in the weeks since the Fourth of July, though they have dropped off significantly in the past few weeks, according to county statistics. In fact, the county’s newest guide to the severity of the local corona virus ­— known as the “coronameter” — dropped for the first time this week into the “comfortable” range from the “cautious” range, said Public Health Director Karen Koenemann.

“That’s good news,” Koenemann said Thursday.

In fact, cases across the state of Colorado are decreasing, Vance said.

However, the Labor Day holiday and kids and college students heading back to school could impact post-Labor Day COVID case numbers. Vance said the latest estimates from the American Automobile Association — Triple A — indicate that a significant amount of people are making last-minute travel plans for the upcoming weekend.

The best way to combat the spread of the virus is to maintain social distancing and wear a facemask in public, said Vance and Dr. Kimberly Levin, Pitkin County’s medical officer.

If people continue to reduce social interactions by the current rate of 75%, it is likely to keep demands for hospital beds and intensive care beds at a low and manageable rate, Vance said. However, if social distancing drops to just 50% to 55% of previous levels, the demand for those hospital services is likely to spike drastically this winter and spring, he said.

That’s why Colorado’s statewide mandatory facemask rule is so critical to keeping case counts down, Koenemann said.

Levin also stressed the importance of facemasks and social distancing in keeping COVID numbers low until a vaccine becomes available.

“It’s in our hands,” she said. “It’s in our community’s hands (and) it’s in our visitor’s hands.”

jauslander@aspentimes.com


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