Giving Thought: Pandemic advice to live by as winter approaches

Tamara Tormohlen
Giving Thought
Tamara Tormohlen
Steve Mundinger

We never hoped or expected to be here, but here we are. It’s autumn, we’re heading into winter and coronavirus cases are spiking — both in Colorado and nationwide.

No, it’s not good news, but it’s important to hear it, understand it and react. “We’re all getting tired of the virus and we just want to enjoy the holidays like normal, but the fact is we can’t,” said Dave Ressler, CEO of Aspen Valley Hospital. “We need to buckle down.”

That’s not to say we have to drastically change what we’ve been doing. It’s really that we cannot let our guard down. As the weather cools down and winter approaches, we need to continue taking all of the same precautions, and perhaps a couple more. The so-called five commitments of containment still apply:

1. I will maintain six feet of distance from anyone not in my household.

2. I will wash my hands often.

3. I will cover my face in public.

4. I will stay home when I am sick.

5. I will seek testing and self-report if I have symptoms.

And, since we’re headed into flu season, it’s highly recommended that you get a flu shot. COVID-19 and the common flu have numerous symptoms in common, and a mask will help protect you from both. But getting the flu vaccine also will protect against a winter wave of sickness.

“The worry is that with the onset of the flu season, you’re going to get peaks of flu and COVID-19 cases at the same time,” said Charles Chiu, an infectious disease expert at the University of California, San Francisco. “Even with a mild flu season, the convergence with a COVID surge could very rapidly overwhelm our hospital system.”

As the temperatures drop — and they eventually will — it will be much harder to gather in backyards and public parks. We’ll all be tempted to meet friends indoors for dinner, drinks or a football game, but please be cautious when considering these opportunities.

“If you’re indoors, then keep your masks on, keep your distance and wash your hands,” said Alyssa Franklin, director of primary care at AVH. “Normally I go back to Iowa for Thanksgiving, but I’ve already told my husband that I want to stay here and make a small dinner with the family.”

Franklin already held a virtual Mother’s Day gathering using Zoom and recommended it to anyone. If, however, you’re determined to invite those guests to your home, then make sure everyone follows the five rules of containment before and during the event, and keep the guest list under 10, so there’s room for everyone to spread out.

Meanwhile, AVH officials are working with various community partners to make COVID-19 tests more readily available for valley residents. Within another week or so, they hope to open a COVID-testing site in Basalt to serve those who have had a hard time getting tested.

“We recognize there’s a lack of testing for those who are uninsured or underserved or can’t get a physician referral,” Ressler said. “We want to get those gaps covered.”

The Basalt site is one piece of a multi-pronged approach to expanding COVID testing in the region. The details aren’t in place yet, but hospital officials are collaborating with various community partners, including Aspen Community Foundation, to make more tests available. If they’re successful, then a COVID test would be easily accessible to residents and visitors alike, whether they’re worried and showing symptoms or they’re asymptomatic and just want to visit family with a clean bill of health.

Stay tuned for more developments as winter comes on. And please continue to follow the five commitments. They are truly rules to live by in this challenging time.

Tamara Tormohlen is executive director of Aspen Community Foundation.