Winter plan to be focus of Pitkin County board of health meeting |

Winter plan to be focus of Pitkin County board of health meeting

County’s indoor mask mandate has little hope of going away, other measures to be narrowed down

Roaring Fork Valley community members wait outside the Vaccine Bus parked in the Snowmass Recreation Center parking lot in Snowmass Village on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Pitkin County residents should have a better understanding of what this winter season’s COVID-19-related protocols will look like after Friday afternoon.

The Pitkin County Board of Health is scheduled to hear about and discuss the proposed winter mitigation COVID plan beginning at 1 p.m in a virtual Zoom meeting, according to the online agenda.

Meanwhile, the county’s situation relative to the spread of the virus remained roughly the same Thursday as it’s been for the past few weeks, according to online county dashboards, with one notable exception.

Aspen Valley Hospital is now operating under a “cautious” flag when it comes to transferring patients in need of a higher level of care to other hospitals, according to an AVH spokeswoman. The change in status occurred about a week ago as ICU beds across Colorado have filled with mainly unvaccinated COVID-19 patients.

AVH remains “comfortable” regarding the number of essential health care workers out with COVID-like symptoms and average daily COVID patient visits, according to the website.

A majority of the rest of the state’s hospitals, however, are in crisis mode, which is the reason for AVH’s caution when it comes to transfers. As of Thursday, around 90% of the ICU beds in Colorado were in use, according to Pitkin County’s online dashboard.

The state activated “crisis standards of care for staffing of health care systems Tuesday” to best manage the patients with COVID-19 as well as other ailments, according to a state news release. The status allows hospitals “to implement staffing solutions to best meet the increasing medical needs of their communities,” the release states.

The crisis standards were not affecting AVH as of Wednesday, said spokeswoman Jennifer Slaughter.

Pitkin County’s COVID-19 numbers have been relatively consistent over the past two weeks, with daily cases among county residents ranging between 28 and 33, according to the online dashboards. The incidence rate has gone from a low of 146 per 100,000 people on Nov. 1 to 186 on Nov. 4, and has remained within that range since Oct. 28. Wednesday’s incidence rate was 158.

The county’s indoor mask mandate remains in effect with little hope of it going away anytime soon. For that to happen, the incidence rate must remain below 50 for 21 consecutive days.

Public health officials have continued to urge the public to get vaccinated or receive a booster shot of the vaccine, which they say is the best way to avoid serious illness or death.

The next mobile vaccination clinics in Pitkin County will take place Nov. 20-21 at the Pitkin County Library in Aspen from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., though others will take place in Garfield and Eagle counties before then. For more information go to

Winter mitigation strategies for COVID-19 were first outlined at the Board of Health’s meeting last month. At the time, public health officials highlighted the indoor mask mandate, mandatory safety plans for events with more than 50 people and that tourists would again be made aware of the Pitkin County’s COVID-19-related restrictions through a Traveler Responsibility Code.

Capacity restrictions of 50% would only be triggered if AVH has to suspend elective surgeries to take care of COVID-19 patients. If the hospital had to resort of crisis standards of care, Pitkin County would move to a lockdown for most residents, while travelers would be ordered home and schools would operate remotely.

The public was allowed to comment on those proposals, while the board is set to make a final decision on them Friday.

The Board of Health virtual meeting is scheduled from 1-2:30 p.m.

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