Summer in Aspen likely to include masks inside but not capacity limits |

Summer in Aspen likely to include masks inside but not capacity limits

Pitkin County officials map out possible changes for summer crowds

A couple snuggles up to one another while walking down Mill St. in downtown Aspen in the city’s designated outdoor mask zone on Tuesday, April 27, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Pitkin County’s manager offered a preview Tuesday of what summer in Aspen is likely to look like.

The first thing is that facemasks — indoors, anyway — probably are not going anywhere. County public health staff plan to recommend that members the board of health retain the indoor facemask requirement through the summer, said Jon Peacock, county manager.

But, beyond that, many of the COVID-19-related rules they’ve spent the past year trying to track, follow and endure are likely to become “recommendations” after May 27, he said.

“Come Memorial Day, we will pivot away from the public health orders,” Peacock told Pitkin County commissioners Tuesday during the board’s regular weekly work session. “(Public health will play) more of a traditional role of addressing and tracking (the disease).”

On Tuesday night, the Aspen City Council voted to extend its indoor mask ordinance to June 7 but eliminated the outdoor mask zone in the downtown core starting May 1 (unless not socially distanced).

The Pitkin County Board of Health, which meets again May 13, decided earlier this month to extend the state’s color-coded COVID Dial requirements through May 27 throughout the county. The state made those Dial requirements voluntary for counties after April 16.

On Monday, the county dropped to the lesser blue-level restrictions, which allows for more indoor capacity and larger outdoor gatherings among other changes.

Increasing numbers of vaccinated residents and visitors coupled with keeping indoor facemask requirements will allow local public health officials to drop enforcement of capacity requirements this summer that have hampered many restaurants and other businesses during the pandemic, Peacock said.

Public health staff will continue to encourage and focus on other protective measures like indoor masks, gathering symptom screening information, HVAC improvements and case investigation efforts, he said.

Adding to local protective measures is the fact that many businesses have banded together independently to provide COVID-19 protective measures for customers.

“There’s a market interest in people feeling safe,” Peacock said.

Public health staff also is working on additional allowance guidelines for venues that limit access only to people who have been vaccinated or have recently had a negative COVID-19 test, he said.

Officials estimate that 62% of Pitkin County’s approximately 18,000 residents have been vaccinated. That works out to about 11,000 residents and nearly 5,000 non-residents vaccinated in the county so far though mass vaccination clinics, doctors and other providers, Peacock said.

The county’s mass vaccination clinics, held at the Benedict Music Tent parking lot, ended last week amid decreasing demand. Public health staff now will focus on going where people are, including introducing mobile clinics at food banks, he said. They will also partner with local school districts to vaccinate children once that is allowed, and want local businesses to encourage employees to get vaccinated.

The free COVID-19 testing sites in Aspen behind City Hall and in Basalt remain open, though sites in Snowmass and at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport have closed. The latter two sites were only open for the ski season, Peacock said.

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