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Coronavirus - Roaring Fork Valley

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. 


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. 


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 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.

Courtesy of Dr. Brooke Allen

Throughout the Roaring Fork Valley, rates of new COVID-19 cases continue to rise. New cases transmitted over Thanksgiving are just beginning to trickle into county data, exacerbating virus rates that were already higher than any other point in the pandemic.

Walter Gallacher

The “Promotora Program,” created by Voces Unidas de las Montañas, is meant to assist Latinos in Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

The Latino-led group, which is based in Glenwood Springs, is hiring two bilingual promotoras, or “trained community navigators,” to lead the initiative until the end of March. Local linguist Liz Velasco, who runs her own language translation company and is certified in medical interpretation, will be the lead promotora and they’ll be announcing the candidate for the second position later this week.

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.

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. 

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