Uninformed Aspen electeds express frustration over perceived lack of COVID-19 information
Councilwoman Rachel Richards says she can’t find COVID-19 information; county website has it all
Some Aspen City Council members voiced their frustrations this week that they are uninformed about the status of COVID-19 protocols and policies in Pitkin County and want that government’s board of health to be more forthcoming with information on vaccines and testing, as well as mask guidelines.
The Pitkin County Board of Health recommended last week to follow CDC guidelines on masks, which is to wear one indoors in high transmissions areas.
Pitkin County’s transmission level of the virus remains in the high category due to a transient population with a large number of unvaccinated people.
“I just don’t know how we are getting the word out right now,” said Councilwoman Rachel Richards during a work session Monday. “In town, it feels like you’re in Shangri La and there’s nothing to worry about here.”
She said there is scant information about where to get tested or vaccinated.
“I’m very worried about that aspect that if we don’t control the tourism behavior of disregard of CDC guidelines our children are going to pay the price,” she said, noting that children are at particular risk of the highly contagious delta variant because the FDA has not approved a vaccine for children younger than 12. “The lack of information is really bad out there.”
Councilman Skippy Mesirow said he anticipates that we will be asked about making policy regarding the delta variant and is not as informed as he wants to be.
Pitkin County’s COVID-19 website has all of the information on where to get tested, vaccinated and when to wear a mask.
It also has detailed information on risk levels, data and statistics on caseloads, hospitalizations and what segment of the population is vaccinated, along with phone numbers to call for questions, said Tracy Trulove, who acts as a public information officer for the county’s COVID-19 response.
“I don’t know how to make it simpler for people,” she said. “(The website) is a robust source of information and the county is committed to staffing the call center.”
There’s also a weekly newsletter that people can sign up to read up on the latest news, Trulove added.
But that doesn’t appear to be enough for Richards, who said she thinks the public at large needs more messaging, including banners across Main Street, posters in windows of businesses and newspaper ads.
Both the city and county have dialed back their communications efforts on COVID-19 in recent months, with Trulove playing a smaller role for the county and the city’s two-person consumer and health protection team is inactive.
Mayor Torre, who serves on the county board of health as the city representative, told his fellow council members that COVID-19 information on the county’s website is updated every day and that should be their go-to source, but it isn’t perfect.
“I’ll be quite honest, it’s gotten more difficult the minute they changed the format,” he said. “But again, you are right, they are not sending it to us directly so it’s a little bit harder.”
The county is currently working to update some mask signage with the CDC guidance to share with businesses or anyone that would like that kind of information, Trulove said.
She also noted the winter planning group, comprised of officials from the city, Snowmass, Aspen Skiing Co., Aspen Chamber Resort Association, Aspen-Pitkin County Airport and the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, started meeting again to anticipate how COVID-19 will affect the landscape in the colder months.
Denise White, the city’s director of communications, said since the city is no longer under a COVID-19 emergency declaration, the municipal government is deferring to the county’s public health experts to disperse information to the public.
However, with an increase in cases in recent weeks, the city on Tuesday started reinforcing the county’s information with a banner on its website.
“We are seeing the uptick and are paying attention,” White said. “We are seeing the numbers go up, we are not tone deaf.”
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.
As a mask mandate is reinstated in Pitkin County, Aspen’s elected officials signal the importance of what wearing a facial covering means.