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Aspen Public Radio will keep you informed on the latest information about the coronavirus here in Colorado and the Valley.

UPDATES: Roaring Fork Valley Coronavirus: July 19-25, 2020

Alex Hager/Aspen Public Radio

Eagle County May Be Forced To Forfeit Public Health Variance

Friday, July 25 - Trends in the local spread of COVID-19 may threaten Eagle County’s ability to maintain its public health order variance from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Last week, the state health department notified the county that local disease rates were outside the levels allowed by the variance. 

If disease spread does not decrease to acceptable levels, the county may be required to reset to the state’s more restrictive public health order. In response, Eagle County updated its public health order and submitted a plan to the state outlining immediate actions to help decrease case incidence rates to below 100 cases per 100,000 population within the next 2 to 4 weeks.

Glenwood Springs Enacts Mandatory Face Covering Zone Downtown

Friday, July 24 - Citing increasing case numbers, Glenwood Springs City Council specific enacted a mandatory face covering zone for downtown Glenwood Springs. The mandatory face covering zone includes portions north of the Grand Avenue bridge in the hot springs district, as well as most of downtown on the south side of the Grand Avenue bridge.

The order requires face coverings for all members of the public while within the zone, excepting commuter pass through traffic. Exceptions for wearing face coverings are granted for the following people:

  • Persons aged two years and under
  • Persons for whom a face covering would cause impairment due to an existing health condition.
  • Persons seated at a table in a restaurant and complying with other regulations related to restaurants.

Masks are available to downtown visitors at the Glenwood Springs Visitor Center located at 802 Grand Avenue.  
Pitkin County Revising Health Order Language To Encourage More Mask-Wearing

Thursday, July 23 - Pitkin County public health officials discussed changes to an existing public health order, hoping to streamline mask mandates and cut out reasons for not wearing masks. In Thursday's Board of Health Meeting, officials proposed simplifying the language of the order. A revised order would nix an exception for people spending "less than ten minutes" in close contact with a person outside of their family. 

Another proposal would limit informal gathering sizes to 10 people, down from 50 in the existing order. Officials cited an increased spread of COVID-19 in informal gatherings, especially among people under 30 years old. 

The new measures come on the heels of a statewide mandate requiring masks in any indoor public space and a City of Aspen plan to require masks throughout the downtown core, even outdoors. 

Aspen Moves Forward With More Small Business Loans

Wednesday, July 22 - The City of Aspen is moving forward with a loan program for local small businesses, part of the COVID-19 economic recovery program approved earlier this year. The program was discussed in a city council meeting on Tuesday.

Locally-owned and locally-serving businesses can borrow from a pool of $200,000 and make payments back into it. The aim is to get small businesses on sound financial footing if they are unable qualify for traditional bank loans. 

The program will be managed by Colorado Lending Source, a nonprofit with an office in Glenwood Springs. Businesses can get loans up to $30,000. The program is on track to open for applications in the first week of August. 

So far, the broader economic recovery plan has already distributed about $1 million to 112 Aspen businesses. Additionally, the city funded the distribution of $25 gift cards to Aspen residents, representing $50,000 of economic stimulus for restaurants and retail. 

Eagle County Hosts Online Forum To Address COVID-19 Concerns

Tuesday, July 21 - Eagle County announced today that it will be hosting a live online forum on Thursday, July 23 at 2 p.m. to address the ongoing community response to COVID-19. The virtual discussion will include speakers from the local business and medical communities, news media, school officials and local government officials. Viewers can watch the online discussion by visiting ecgtv.com and on Facebook. The discussion will be streamed in Spanish here

Citing COVID-19 Spike In Young Adults, Governor Polis Mandates 10 P.M. Last Call For Alcohol

Tuesday, July 21 - At a press conference today, Governor Jared Polis announced a new mandate for the next 30 days that last call for alcohol will be at 10 p.m. at bars, restaurants and nightclubs. Governor Polis cited a spike in coronavirus cases among the 20-29 age group in the state, and that limiting alcohol service will discourage risky behavior and increased virus spread. He added that limiting the spread between young adults will help curb the number COVID-19 cases spreading to older and more vulnerable populations. Bars, restaurants and nightclubs can stay open past the new last call time, but will be limited to food service only.

Colorado Offers Pandemic-EBT Food Benefits To Families With School-Aged Children

Tuesday, July 21 - The Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) and Colorado Department of Education (CDE) announced today that some Coloradans with school-aged children will begin receiving food assistance. The financial benefits will be distrubuted through the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) system on Wednesday, July 22.

State officials said that 360,000 Colorado children are eligible for the benefits, and that the program will reimburse families for free and cost-reduced meals typically provided through schools that were not received during COVID-related shutdowns this spring. Eligible families include any whose children are in preschool, early childhood education programs, pre-K through 12th grade in a school that participates in the National School Lunch Program, or if they currently receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits. Assistance covers students in public, private and charter schools.

Families who meet the criteria will have their benefits automatically loaded onto their current EBT cards between July 22 and 31. Families that don't automatically receive benefits can apply for P-EBT funds. 

More information can be found on the program's website.

CDPHE And CDE Release Guidance For Opening Schools In The Fall

Monday, July 20 - The Colorado Department of Health and Environment and the Colorado Department of Education released a new guide Monday for plans to reopen schools in the fall. The departments said it is ultimately a local decision, but the state's guide will help local public health agencies work with districts to make a decision on fall learning plans. 

The state's recommendations are based on which public health phase the school district is currently in. General recommendations, regardless of if the school district is in Stay-at-Home, Safer-at-Home or Protect-Our-Neighbors, include:

  • Students stay six feet apart, but three feet of distance is acceptable. Older students and adult staff should maintain six feet.
  • Staff and students over 11 years old are required to wear masks. Students ten and under are encouraged to do so as long as the student is able to take the mask on and off by themselves. An exception would be made for those who have a medical condition, are hard of hearing or are language learners.
  • Maintain a healthy environment by decreasing congestion in hallways, entrances and other common spaces and use separate entrances when possible. Schools should stagger times of arrival, departure, meals and recess.
  • Reduce capacity on buses and encourage social distancing. On all school transportation, masks should be worn and those of the same household are recommended to sit together.

CDPHE officials said if Colorado returns to Stay-at-Home orders, schools will return to remote learning. If the state is in the Safer-at-Home or Protect-Our-Neighbors phases, in-person learning will be encouraged for K-8 students. High school classes will have smaller class sizes and social distancing measures. 
"While our goal is to get students back into the classroom where they can be supported, we need to prioritize the health and safety of students, their families and staff," said Colorado Education Commissioner Katy Anthes.

CDPHE officials said younger children are less likely to show severe symptoms from COVID-19 and the risk of transmission between children to adults is low. For that reason, the guidance encourages more social distancing for older students and adults and for adults in lower-grade classrooms. Whichever plan districts decide to enforce for the fall, CDPHE said a remote learning option should be available for students with a pre-existing health condition or for those who get sick during the school year. 

RFTA To Resume Front-Door Boarding, Full Fares August 1

Sunday, July 19 - The Roaring Fork Transit Authority (RFTA) announced yesterday that it would resume allowing passengers to board buses from the front door, although they must still exit via the rear exit. All riders will be required to pay the normal fare when riding the bus, and no cash will be expected. Despite the changes, RFTA says they are keeping some public health protocols in place to protect drivers and riders.

A list of information about the new service can be found on RFTA's website.

Kirsten was born and raised in Massachusetts, and has called Colorado home since 2008. She moved to Vail the day after graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2011. Before relocating to Basalt in 2020, she also spent a year living in one of Aspen’s sister cities, Queenstown, New Zealand.
Alex is KUNC's reporter covering the Colorado River Basin. He spent two years at Aspen Public Radio, mainly reporting on the resort economy, the environment and the COVID-19 pandemic. Before that, he covered the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery for KDLG in Dillingham, Alaska.
Contributor Christin Kay is passionate about the rich variety of arts, cultural experiences and stories in the Roaring Fork Valley. She has been a devotee of public radio her whole life. Christin is a veteran of Aspen Public Radio, serving as producer, reporter and interim news director.