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New COVID-19 Cases Slightly Increasing In Pitkin County

Sep 17, 2020

Health officials say adherence with the statewide mask order helped suppress spread over the month of August, but gatherings over Labor Day weekend were likely sources of transmission.
Credit Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

Pitkin County is seeing a slight uptick in new COVID-19 cases among residents, the first steady increase since a spike in late July. The county has recorded fourteen new cases in the past fourteen days. Aspen Valley Hospital posted a fourteen-day positivity rate of 3.11%, well below the hospital’s threshold for concern, but the highest positivity rate in over a month.

County epidemiologist Josh Vance said the upward trend does not come as a surprise. Informal gatherings over Labor Day weekend likely resulted in new virus spread, accounting for the increase in cases. 

“I can’t emphasize enough that this virus is still just as present today as it was a few months ago,” Vance said. “And we need to continue to remain vigilant with our own actions and the activities we decide to partake in.”

Vance identified three factors that contributed to reduced virus spread in the month of August – adherence to the statewide mask mandate, reduced travel due to wildfire-related highway closures and a slight reduction in overall visitorship to the county

In response to the rising case numbers, the county upgraded its “Coronameter” from “comfortable” to “cautious,” the second of four tiers of concern.

 

Eagle and Garfield Counties are both seeing a similar upward trend in new cases. 

Plus, with fall and winter on the horizon, public health officials are turning their attention to prevention in the colder months. Vance said the approach to controlling virus spread in the holiday season is three-pronged, and officials are addressing how to do so before, during and after visitors arrive. 

“We’re looking at – is travel from other states and other countries going to then increase risk both among travelers and among Pitkin County residents,” Vance said. “And secondly, how do we work with our businesses here in Pitkin County to ensure that they have the proper protocols and measures put into place so they can operate safely.”

The third portion of that strategy is focused on preventing spread back to other states and countries via departing visitors.