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PitCo's Next Public Health Order Will Look Like The State's, With A Few Tweaks

May 1, 2020

Data from Aspen Valley Hospital shows a steady decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations, according to this chart shown in Thursday's emergency public health meeting. A decrease in cases is one of five requirements counties should meet before loosening public health restrictions.
Credit via Pitkin County Public Health

Pitkin County health officials laid out the specifics of the next public health order and the county’s contact tracing operation in an emergency public health meeting on Thursday. The next public health order will closely align with the state’s latest policies, but include a few specific exceptions.

At the recommendation of Aspen Valley Hospital’s medical advisory team, the new order will require face coverings in all public buildings and businesses, as well as outdoor situations with the risk of being within six feet of another person. 

Pitkin County’s order will also recommend travel for recreation be limited to the Roaring Fork Valley, whereas the state’s order recommends travel for recreation be limited to one’s county of residence or within 10 miles of the home.

While the state recommends seven days of isolation for people with symptoms, Pitkin County recommends 10 and includes a clause that the number could change if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updates their own recommendation.

Pitkin County’s order also includes expanded language defining policies for lodging, including hotels. The county’s policy would not not allow guests in short-term lodging units throughout the extent of the new order. 

Among the differences between Pitkin County's next public health order and the state's is expanded language regarding lodging.
Credit via Pitkin County Public Health

In order to gradually loosen restrictions, counties should first meet a set of requirements that show they are capable of handling the current and future spread of the virus. Kimberly Levin, medical officer at Aspen Valley Hospital, said the hospital’s data shows it can meet three of those requirements – a sustained decrease in cases for at least 14 days, the ability to safely treat patients without resorting to crisis standards of care and the ability to test all people with symptoms. The county’s plans for contact tracing and continued social distancing allow it to meet the remaining requirements. 

Jon Peacock, Pitkin County manager, provided robust details on the county’s contact tracing operation. Using calculations about the county’s current population and its population with peak volume of visitors, he said the county would need to employ 10-14 contact tracers throughout the next 12-18 months. 

This would allow the county to handle up to 90% of necessary contact tracing during times of peak visitorship. The year-and-a-half-long contact tracing operation is projected to cost the county $1.2 million. That total does not include the money required to ramp up testing operations.

Peacock said the number of contact tracers could be more than needed at all times, but compared that staff to a “fire department” which would be “sitting there, ready to go if needed.” Because some or all of the contact tracers would be employees currently working elsewhere within county government, Peacock said “if folks have to go back to their day jobs, we’re not scrambling.”