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Coronavirus - Roaring Fork Valley

Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

Coronavirus rates appear to have slightly slowed their breakneck rise in all three Roaring Fork Valley counties, but local health experts say it may only be a momentary blip amid virus levels that are still worse than any other phase of the pandemic.

Pitkin County epidemiologist Josh Vance said some of that slowing can be attributed to decreased testing on Thanksgiving day.

Alex Hager

The ski mountains are open and Christmas is less than a month away. In Aspen, many businesses reliant on tourists and the dollars they bring during the snowier months will face a bevy of new challenges in a mid-pandemic winter.

Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

State health officials are urging Coloradans to avoid meeting with family and friends for Thanksgiving festivities, as indoor gatherings could exacerbate already-high levels of the coronavirus.

Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

Surging rates of COVID-19 in Pitkin County pushed the area into the “orange” level of the state’s COVID-19 meter, a multi-tiered gauge used to impose restrictions on counties where the virus is worsening.

On track to move one level higher on the meter, Pitkin County is imposing its own set of rules – slightly stricter than the state requires – to avoid the mandatory shutdown of businesses that comes with the “red” level.

Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

New cases of COVID-19 continue to stack up in all three Roaring Fork Valley counties, making the pandemic more intense now than at any other point since it began. The area is creeping closer to new mandatory restrictions handed down from the state.

Gov. Jared Polis is summoning lawmakers back to the Capitol for a rare special session to consider a coronavirus stimulus package worth more than $200 million.

"Extraordinary times call for extraordinary actions," Polis said Tuesday at the governor's mansion. "I'll be asking the general assembly to take up critical legislation that will help Colorado families and Colorado small businesses survive these challenging winter months ahead to bridge us to the vaccine."

Courtesy Hugh Carey/Cripple Creek Backcountry

When ski lifts across Colorado stopped spinning in mid-March due to the pandemic, there was a rise in backcountry use among skiers and snowboarders. Officials think that trend is likely to continue this year, too.

“Given what we saw last spring, we are expecting more people in the backcountry than we’ve seen in previous years,” said Brian Lazar, an avalanche forecaster with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center

Allison Johnson / Roaring Fork School District

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the valley, local schools are having to rethink their plans for the winter months. As of last week, nearly 250 students were quarantined in the Roaring Fork School District and the entire Roaring Fork High School moved to online learning for the week after several staff were exposed to the virus. 

“It’s very disruptive, the pivoting back and forth between distance learning and in-person learning,” said the district’s superintendent Rob Stein.


Screenshot from Governor Jared Polis on Facebook

In a speech Friday afternoon, Gov. Jared Polis delivered some stern warnings  for the state as it goes through its most challenging throes of the pandemic. 

Garfield County Public Health

All three counties in the Roaring Fork Valley are experiencing their highest rates of COVID-19 since the pandemic began in March. Public health officials and hospitals are concerned about a grim winter ahead, with holiday gatherings and travel threatening to worsen already-unprecedented levels of the virus.

Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

 

All three counties in the Roaring Fork Valley are experiencing their highest rates of new COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began about nine months ago. Area hospitals are worried that increasing spread of the virus could bring an overwhelming burden in the coming months and bracing for a grim road ahead.

Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

Gov. Jared Polis is extending a statewide mask mandate for another thirty days as coronavirus cases continue to surge. More than 1,000 people were in the hospital with the virus as of Monday. Polis is also asking residents to step up their social distancing efforts.

"As long as Coloradans are cancelling their social interactions the next few weeks with those outside their household, together we can save Christmas," the governor said.

Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

Pitkin County Public Health director Karen Koenemann announced plans to resign, effective Dec. 4. She has served as director since the department’s creation in early 2017, and is leaving this job to work for a health nonprofit in her home state of Alaska.

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.

Kirsten Dobroth/Aspen Public Radio

Governor Jared Polis Extends Colorado Mask Mandate

Monday, Sept. 14 - Governor Jared Polis extended Colorado's statewide mask mandate for another 30 days over the weekend. The extension is set to expire on Oct. 12, but could be extended again, as it has been twice since it was originally adopted in July.

Courtesy of Anto Sweetapple

The scheduled start of the Colorado ski season is only about three months away – and with snow falling on the tops of nearby peaks just this week, it’s hard not to wonder what a winter on the slopes is going to look like during a pandemic. 

via Pixabay

When local health staffers are alerted to new cases of coronavirus in Pitkin County, they work with infected people to figure out where they might have picked it up. 39% of cases in the county are considered “community spread,” meaning the infected person does not know where they were exposed to the virus.

Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

Pitkin County is using a study of cell phone data to figure out who is most likely to spread COVID-19 within the county. 

The numbers are a combination of how many people from a specific place are in Pitkin County and how prevalent the virus is in their home region. 

Molly Dove / Aspen Public Radio

The Aspen School District is planning for a hybrid learning model for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year. At a virtual town hall Thursday, district officials said they expect elementary students to return to the classroom on August 26, while middle and high school students learn virtually from home.

Hannah A Bullock; Azaibi Tamin / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

 Pueden encontrar la versión en español aqui.

About a month ago, Annell, who works as a housekeeper in the Roaring Fork Valley, tested positive for COVID-19 after being exposed at work. Aspen Public Radio is only using her first name to protect her identity because of her immigration status. Annell was asymptomatic, but still struggled during her two-week quarantine because she could not work.

Kendall Reiley / Glenwood Springs Elementary School

The Roaring Fork School District announced Friday the 2020-2021 school year will begin virtually on August 17 since COVID-19 risks in the Roaring Fork Valley remain high. District officials said they worked with public health officials and used evidence-based information to make the decision for school to begin online with some improvements from the spring. 

Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

When ski lifts in Aspen and Snowmass stopped spinning in March, so did the area’s economy. Pitkin County businesses went into an early offseason and have experienced a staggered reopening under new restrictions.

Creative Commons

Los condados de Pitkin, Eagle y Garfield conjuntamente, hicieron una transición a un análisis estratégico para ayudar a entregarle a los pacientes los resultados de los exámenes de COVID-19 de una manera más rápida y en definitiva reducir la propagación del virus en la comunidad. Para lograr esto, los tres condados sólo realizaran pruebas a las personas que muestren síntomas, tengan más riesgo, hayan estado en contacto con alguien positivo o hayan sido hospitalizados.

Courtesy Carbondale Arts

During the early months of the pandemic, local artist Wewer Keohane sent invitations to 75 artists, mostly living within the Roaring Fork Valley, to accept a randomly chosen flash card. The cards served as prompts to create work inspired by their time in isolation during COVID-19 shutdowns. 

Alex Hager

Aspen Valley Hospital is now testing over 16 people per day for COVID-19, and as a result, has bumped its status to "Cautious" on the hospital's Capacity Matrix. That means the hospital is concerned about rising numbers of COVID-19 cases locally and its capacity to handle an influx in patients.

Courtesy The Aspen Chapel Gallery

 

The Aspen Chapel Gallery's upcoming exhibition, "Art From the Heart," (June 24 through July 12) benefits local artists and organizations helping in the Roaring Fork Valley’s COVID-19 response. The Aspen Chapel Gallery’s co-director Tom Ward said the impetus behind the exhibition was simple.

Christin Kay

LIFT-UP Releases July Food Distribution Plan

Friday, June 26- Next month, LIFT-UP Food Pantries will continue to distribute food throughout the Roaring Fork Valley via drive-through and walk-up format. LIFT-UP pantries are not open for food pick up or donations at this time. 

Eleanor Bennett / Aspen Public Radio

Longtime local resident Maria works in housekeeping and lives in a shared mobile home in El Jebel. She said she’s worried about paying her $300-a-month rent this summer. (We’re not using her full name because she’s undocumented.)

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a virtual town hall Tuesday that the reservation hit its peak number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and emergency room visits a few weeks early thanks to social distancing and mask-wearing.

 


(HS)2 / Colorado Rocky Mountain School

As schools everywhere are faced with the dilemma of cancelling summer programs amid the pandemic, ‘High School, High Scholar,’  known as '(HS)2' at Colorado Rocky Mountain School, or CRMS, in Carbondale is going virtual. 

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