Rates of positive COVID-19 tests are gradually rising in the Roaring Fork Valley. In Thursday’s Pitkin County Board of Health Meeting, officials said the rate of positive tests at Aspen Valley Hospital was increasing and that positive cases in neighboring Garfield and Eagle are being closely monitored.
For weeks, the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests at Aspen Valley Hospital per week barely cracked 5%. That rate crept up to 6% and is up to 7% over the last 14 days. If it were to reach 10%, that would qualify as “concerning” and would lead health officials to reassess public health measures.
The latest testing data reflects virus transmission that could have occurred over Memorial Day weekend but likely does not yet show any transmission that could have occurred during protests.
In Thursday's meeting, Charles Spickert, Pitkin County epidemiologist, compared controlling the virus to the carnival game “whack-a-mole.” Spread starts off slowly and is easy to monitor, but can pick up pace quickly. He said the county is still in “slow mode,” but emphasized the need to keep increasing testing and contact tracing capacity for when cases pick up.
The number of visits to Aspen Valley Hospital’s testing facility is also steadily increasing, but health officials said the hospital’s testing capacity is expected to keep pace with demand.
“We’re not anywhere close to what would be a problem at this point,” Spickert said, in regards to testing capacity.
Tests are currently available to anyone with symptoms after a referral from a primary care provider. There are currently no plans to expand testing availability to asymptomatic people.
Health officials emphasized the importance of the county’s “five commitments,” a list of practices which help curtail the spread of the virus – maintaining six feet of distance from people outside of one’s household, washing hands often, wearing a face covering in public, staying home when sick and getting tested if one feels symptoms. Multiple Board of Health members raised concerns that some people may not be following those commitments in public.
“This is something we’ve got to do together,” said Jon Peacock, Pitkin County Manager, in a call with reporters after Thursday’s meeting. “It’s got to be a community effort. It’s got to be an individual effort. Just passing a public health order or relying on somebody from the government to be there to tell you what you’re supposed to do at every moment is not going to protect us from this virus. We need people to take responsibility.”