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Coronavirus News

Aspen Public Radio will provide the latest news and updates regarding the coronavirus, COVID-19, in the valley and Colorado.

Support for Updates: Coronavirus comes from Penney Evans Carruth with Aspen Snowmass Sotheby's International Realty, opening doors for buyers and sellers in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

Pitkin County’s COVID-19 incidence rate is the highest in Colorado by a wide margin. As a result, businesses are operating under “orange” level restrictions – a more stringent set of rules than anywhere else in the state.

Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

Latinos in Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties have been especially hard hit by the pandemic. While they’ve made up a disproportionate number of COVID-19 cases over the past year, efforts are underway to make sure they have equitable access to vaccines.

Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

There were a few days during the second week of Mar. 2020 when the coronavirus started to feel present and immediate in Aspen. Like it was no longer a distant problem. Like there was a pandemic knocking on the front door. 


To Vaccinate Veterans, Health Care Workers Must Cross Mountains, Plains and Tundra

Feb 22, 2021
Courtesy of Montana VA Health Care System

A Learjet 31 took off before daybreak from Helena Regional Airport in Montana, carrying six Veterans Affairs medical providers and 250 doses of historic cargo cradled in a plug-in cooler designed to minimize breakage.

Even in a state where 80-mph speed limits are normal, ground transportation across long distances is risky for the Moderna mRNA-1273 vaccine, which must be used within 12 hours of thawing.

Scott Franz / Capitol Coverage

You have to go back more than a century to find another time Coloradans faced a statewide crisis as big and deadly as the current COVID-19 pandemic. But experts who studied the state’s response to the Spanish flu of 1918 say history is not repeating itself when it comes to how state lawmakers are responding to the latest outbreak.

Today, visitors to the Capitol building must wear masks and have their temperatures taken, and lawmakers sit between plexiglass dividers.

And the basement cafeteria — usually packed with lobbyists — sits empty, roped off with yellow caution tape.

Health Experts Urge Double-Masking As Coronavirus Mutates

Feb 16, 2021

As highly contagious coronavirus variants spread, health experts in the Mountain West and beyond are urging people to upgrade and double up their masks.

As Demand for Mental Health Care Spikes, Budget Ax Set to Strike

Feb 9, 2021
Scott Franz / Capitol Coverage

When the pandemic hit, health officials in Montana’s Beaverhead County had barely begun to fill a hole left by the 2017 closure of the local public assistance office, mental health clinic, chemical dependency center and job placement office after the state’s last budget shortfall.

COVID-19-Certified Businesses Try to Woo Leery Patrons

Feb 8, 2021
Christie Aschwanden / KHN

On a sunny Saturday this month, Ruth Hatfield was sitting with a friend’s dog on a sidewalk bench in downtown Grand Junction. Back home in Snowmass Village, 120 miles away through winding Rocky Mountain roadways, local officials had just shut down indoor restaurant dining as COVID-19 cases reached some of the highest levels in Colorado.

Almost half a million Coloradans have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. While that number indicates a promising start on the road to the state’s pandemic recovery, advocates say vaccine distribution has been marred by inequity. 


Steven Cornfield / Unsplash

Bingo is back in the dining room. In-person visits have returned, too, though with masks and plexiglass. The Haven Assisted Living Facility’s residents are even planning a field trip for a private movie screening once they’ve all gotten their second round of COVID-19 vaccines.

Such changes are small but meaningful to residents in the Hayden, Colorado, long-term care home, and they’re due mostly to the arrival of the vaccine.

Colorado plans to start offering the coronavirus vaccine to residents ages 65 to 69 and all pre-school and K-12 teachers on Feb. 8, Gov. Jared Polis announced Friday.

Polis said it will take about three weeks to administer the vaccine to all educators who want it.

It will also be offered to child-care workers, school bus drivers and other school staff who work directly with children.

Polis said the decision was made to prioritize teachers because they are “foundational to our society to function, for workplace equity, for the sanity of families with kids.”

Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

The rate of new COVID-19 cases in Pitkin County has dropped sharply over the course of the past two weeks. That number is steadily declining from a peak on Jan. 15, when the county’s two-week incidence rate was the highest in the state by a significant margin. 


Amid COVID Health Worker Shortage, Foreign-Trained Professionals Sit on Sidelines

Jan 26, 2021
Brandon Thibodeaux / KHN

As hospitals nationwide struggle with the latest COVID-19 surge, it’s not so much beds or ventilators in short supply. It’s the people to care for the sick.

Yet a large, highly skilled workforce of foreign-educated doctors, nurses and other health practitioners is going largely untapped due to licensing and credentialing barriers. According to the Migration Policy Institute think tank in Washington, D.C., some 165,000 foreign-trained immigrants in the U.S. hold degrees in health-related fields but are unemployed or underemployed in the midst of the health crisis.

Faced with complaints the initial vaccine distribution in Colorado has disproportionately favored white residents in wealthier neighborhoods, state officials have announced several new efforts aimed at making the inoculation effort more equitable.

The plan includes requiring vaccine providers to report demographic data for those getting shots, multi-lingual advertisements aimed at reducing vaccine hesitancy and establishing new pop-up vaccine clinics in areas with more low-income residents and people of color.

Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

Pitkin County has the highest incidence rate of COVID-19 in all of Colorado, nearly double that of the next highest county. Those alarmingly high numbers have sparked strict public health measures and strained contact tracers – but experts cannot pin down what’s driving the spike.

UPDATE: Judge Denies Restaurant Owners' Challenge to Pitkin County Ban on Indoor Dining

Jan 15, 2021
Eleanor Bennett/Aspen Public Radio News

UPDATED 7 p.m. Friday: A judge denied the request from the Pitkin County Restaurant Alliance, meaning the indoor dining ban will go into effect on Sunday as originally planned.

 

A group of Pitkin County restaurant owners are trying to block tighter restrictions set by the county’s Board of Health that would ban indoor dining. Court papers filed Thursday evening in Pitkin County District Court challenge that ban, set to take effect on Sunday, Jan. 17. 

Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

A new health order in Pitkin County will ban indoor dining and tighten restrictions on hotels and rental units beginning Sunday. The new rules, voted into effect by the Board of Health on Monday, come as the county’s soaring coronavirus rates rank second-worst in Colorado. 

Courtesy of Aspen Valley Hospital

Roaring Fork Valley health leaders say high levels of local demand for coronavirus vaccines are outpacing new shipments of doses from the state. That is partially due to recent and sudden changes to the state’s priority guidelines, which made people 70 years of age or older eligible for the vaccine.

Courtesy Nevada Public Health

Dulce Leyva is a bilingual contact tracer who lives in Reno, Nevada. Her job is to reach out to people who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus and make sure they're self-isolating. And she tries to help them remember who they've been around and could have been exposed to the virus.

 

With COVID-19 cases still soaring across the U.S., it can be tempting to just ride the winter out on the couch, binging on Netflix. But psychologists say it's important in 2021 for us all to keep up human contact.

Snowstorms, holidays and general inexperience in handling a pandemic response is to blame for a "lag" in the number of Americans so far vaccinated for the coronavirus, according to U.S. officials.

The federal government previously estimated that 20 million Americans would receive the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine by the end of the year. But as 2020, a year defined by the coronavirus pandemic, comes to a close on Thursday, the government appears set to fall well short of that goal.

Colorado has changed its vaccine distribution plan to give higher priority to residents who are 70 years or older, along with essential frontline workers.

Gov. Jared Polis says the vaccines for older Coloradans are starting now in counties that have completed distributing their first doses to frontline health care workers.

Polis estimates it should take about four to five weeks to get the vaccines to any Coloradan aged 70 or older who wants it.

Rae Ellen Bichell / KUNC

Updated at 12:58 p.m. Wednesday

State health officials say a Colorado National Guard member has the country’s first confirmed case of the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7. that some scientists say is more contagious. This is the same variant discovered in the United Kingdom. According to a news release, the Colorado State Laboratory confirmed and notified the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the finding.

For months, the warning was clear from economists, housing advocates and public health experts: Without more help from Congress, millions of Americans could be evicted, in the dead of winter, in the middle of a raging pandemic.

"I can't construct a darker scenario," Moody's Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi told NPR in November. "It's absolutely critical that lawmakers step up."

Updated at 9:21 p.m. ET

President Trump is threatening to derail a $900 billion COVID-19 relief package passed by Congress on Monday after months of bitter negotiations.

Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

Pitkin County moved to "Red Level" restrictions Tuesday after exponential increases in local rates of coronavirus. Under the new rules, personal gatherings can only happen with people in the same household, offices and gyms are capped at 10% capacity and restaurants are limited to 25%. Last call is at 9:30 p.m. and they must close at 10 p.m. 

Updated Tuesday at 11:40 a.m. ET

The Senate acted swiftly Monday night, in a 92-6 vote, to approve more than $900 billion for coronavirus assistance, shortly after the House of Representatives passed the package. The aid comes after months of partisan sniping over what elements should be in a relief measure that virtually all lawmakers on Capitol Hill argued was long overdue.

Updated at 2:05 p.m. ET

Vice President Pence, second lady Karen Pence and Surgeon General Jerome Adams received a COVID-19 vaccine on Friday at the White House in a televised event aimed at showing the vaccine is safe and effective.

Pence, wearing a short-sleeve dress shirt, pushed up his sleeve to get the vaccine. He appeared to be smiling underneath his mask and did not watch as he was administered the vaccine by a member of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

"I didn't feel a thing! Well done!" Pence said after getting the shot.

Courtesy of Valley View Hospital

The first batch of coronavirus vaccines has arrived in the Roaring Fork Valley, heralded by many as the beginning of an end to the global pandemic that has infected thousands in the area, and created nearly a year of frustration and hardship for local businesses and their employees.

Hungarian-born scientist Katalin Karikó believed in the potential of messenger RNA — the genetic molecule at the heart of two new COVID-19 vaccines — even when almost no one else did.

Karikó began working with RNA as a student in Hungary. When funding for her job there ran out, Kariko immigrated to Philadelphia in 1985. Over the years, she's been rejected for grant after grant, threatened with deportation and demoted from her faculty job by a university that saw her research as a dead end.

Through it all, Karikó just kept working.

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