Unique Aspen-area visitor testing affidavit requirement begins Monday
Pitkin County’s new program based on honor system
Pitkin County’s bold experiment to try to make sure visitors to Aspen are COVID-free this winter officially starts Monday, like it or not.
The county’s newly minted travel affidavit program goes into effect and requires all overnight visitors to Aspen or Pitkin County 10 years and older to test negative for the virus 72 hours before arrival, and be able to produce proof of a negative result upon request.
“The important thing is that this protective measure helps us stay in Orange-plus (level restrictions),” Kara Silbernagel, Pitkin County policy and project manager, said recently on the Board of Health meeting. “This is being done so our community doesn’t go to Red or Purple (level restrictions).”
Aspen City Councilwoman Ann Mullins and other officials said Thursday during a county board meeting that it is about visitors feeling comfortable coming here.
“We should become more attractive to visit,” she said, “because we’re guaranteeing a safe visit.”
Red restrictions would shut down indoor dining at restaurants, informal gatherings and indoor events. Purple, the top level on the state’s ratings, indicates a stay-at-home order.
The affidavit program is the only one of its kind in the country started by a county. Most all others were started by states.
Residents of Garfield, Eagle and Pitkin counties do not have to fill out the traveler affidavit, nor do day visitors. However, if Pitkin County residents travel out of the area, Silbernagel said they should get a COVID-19 test within three days of returning home, though that is according to CDC guidelines and not required by the county.
As of Friday afternoon, more than 900 people had submitted the affidavits to Pitkin County’s website, Silbernagel said. The affidavit page had received more than 30,000 views since it went live last week, she said.
County officials have reiterated that the affidavit is yet another tool — along with facemasks, social distancing and getting tested when symptoms arise — to control COVID-19 transmission and keep Aspen’s economy open through the winter. The affidavit does not require travelers to upload test results, so it is mainly on the honor system and officials know it will not be followed universally.
Those who arrive without a recent negative test will be required to be tested locally and quarantine until results are known.
The most likely scenario under which a visitor would be asked for proof of a negative test would be if they became caught up in a contact tracing investigation here, local officials have said. Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock said punishment under the criminal code is available as an option in egregious cases, though that would likely be a rare occurrence.
Employees at local hotels and lodges will find themselves on the front lines of the affidavit program. They will also likely have to educate guests about the county’s limit of 10 people from no more than two households at informal gatherings like holiday parties, dinner parties and any other get-togethers at private homes.
The traveler affidavit requirement, which was prompted by members of the health board, will be in effect indefinitely.