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Summer in Aspen likely to include concerts, fuller restaurants, masks

Pitkin County officials will discuss “recommendations” options at this week’s Board of Health meeting

This summer in Aspen is likely to include indoor and outdoor concerts, maskless gatherings and no state or county-mandated restrictions on social distancing at restaurants or anywhere else.

And while it may not be the good ol’ days of 2019 — indoor facemasks will almost certainly still be required and the fun could stop abruptly if hospital capacity is threatened — it should be a far cry from the not-so-great COVID-19 summer of 2020, Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock said Monday.

“We’re talking about moving from requirements to recommendations … starting Memorial Day,” Peacock said. “We will keep our (COVID-19) Dial with our incidence rates … and we will still have the colors. But we won’t have any restrictions tied to the Dial (color) level.”



That general guideline will underpin the recommendations local public health officials will present Thursday to members of the Pitkin County Board of Health, who will make the final determination about what the upcoming summer will look like.

“We’re still recommending 6-foot distancing, but we’re not requiring it,” Peacock said. “So restaurants can make a market call and say, ‘What are our customers looking for here?’ Some want that.”




Same thing goes for performing arts venues, he said. County public health officials have been consulting with representatives from Jazz Aspen, Theatre Aspen, the Aspen Music School, Belly Up and other venues on the best way to accommodate crowds for both indoor and outdoor performances, Peacock said.

For example, at outdoor shows like Snowmass’ Thursday concerts on Fanny Hill or Jazz Aspen, some proposals include a restaurant-like use of facemasks. Attendees would wear facemasks while entering and moving around the venue, but could remove them once settled in to groups, Peacock said.

Again, county officials would recommend social distancing at such venues, but not require it, he said.

The county Public Health Department is also likely to continue to require event safety plans this summer. Officials, however, are open to maskless indoor gatherings if organizers figure out a way to include only those who’ve been vaccinated or tested negative for the virus within 72 hours, Peacock said.

“Performing arts groups are coming up with their own guidelines,” he said. “I think folks are committed to trying to do the right things to prevent us from having to snap back.”

The snap-back measures mandated by the state public health department will come into play if COVID-19 patient levels at local or regional hospitals approach capacity. In that case, locally mandated restrictions associated with Orange- or Red-level guidelines on the state COVID-19 Dial would be implemented, Peacock said.

Pitkin County and other rural resort counties like Eagle and Summit decided collectively to follow the restrictions imposed by the state COVID-19 Dial until May 27. Whatever changes the local board of health decides to make would go into effect May 28.

Some of those counties, like Pitkin, appear likely to continue to impose indoor mask mandates, while others will probably lift them, Peacock said.

“We’re able to make this transition because of vaccines,” he said. “Vaccines are still critical. They’re our best opportunity to keep summer summer.”

If the Pitkin County Board of Health adopts local officials’ recommendations, the local public health department will go back to a more traditional role, said Tracy Trulove, a Pitkin County spokeswoman. That means far less enforcement of public health orders and back to a more educational way of doing business while also closely tracking outbreaks, she said.

 


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