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Mental Health & Health

Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

Karen Koenemann, Pitkin County public health director, will spend her last day in the position on Friday, Dec. 4. She has held the position since the department's inception in early 2017. Koenemann spoke with Aspen Public Radio about the ups and downs of guiding the department through the pandemic. 

What has been the greatest challenge of your time here? What has been the hardest obstacle to overcome?

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.

Tim Mossholder / Unsplash

Many people feel like the last several months have completely turned their world upside down. From shutdowns, to civil unrest, to new rules popping up all the time, to a seemingly unending presidential election, people are run down.

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“I think the theme that we hear the most is the stress of living in limbo,” said Michelle Muething, executive director of Aspen Hope Center. “Nobody knows what tomorrow holds.”

colorado.gov

Gov. Jared Polis and First Gentlemen Marlon Reis tested positive for COVID-19. The governor tweeted the announcement Saturday night, and included a statement. 

"Marlon and I are feeling well so far, and are in good spirits. No person or family is immune to this virus. I urge every Coloradan to practice caution, limit public interactions, wear a mask in public, stay six feet from others, and wash your hands regularly," said Polis.

Need a COVID-19 Nurse? That’ll Be $8,000 a Week

Nov 27, 2020
Luisella Planeta Leoni / Pixabay

In March, Claire Tripeny was watching her dream job fall apart. She’d been working as an intensive care nurse at St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood, Colorado, and loved it, despite the mediocre pay typical for the region. But when COVID-19 hit, that calculation changed.

She remembers her employers telling her and her colleagues to “suck it up” as they struggled to care for six patients each and patched their protective gear with tape until it fully fell apart. The $800 or so a week she took home no longer felt worth it.

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.

The Mountain West is facing a hospitalization crisis, and even states that cracked down early are feeling the effects of those that didn't.

In Washington State, the frustration is palpable.


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."

A newly peer-reviewed online tool allows people to assess the risk of going out to a restaurant, a bar or a dinner party during the pandemic. And the numbers across our region don’t look good.

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.

The entire four-person staff of a county health department in northwest Montana resigned this week.

Courtesy of Valley View Hospital

Colorado is now seeing its highest coronavirus case counts and hospitalizations since the start of the pandemic, but Gov. Jared Polis is not issuing any new restrictions.

Instead, Polis is urging residents to do three things this month, including wearing masks, staying six feet apart and only visiting with members of their own households.

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

The Pitkin County Board of Health has announced stricter limits for gatherings, compared to the statewide order Gov. Jared Polis put in place last week. Gatherings in the county can be no more than five people from two households.

Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

Gov. Jared Polis announced new orders Friday afternoon limiting gatherings to 10 people from no more than two households in all counties at all three “Safer at Home” levels. The announcement comes after weeks of increased cases of COVID-19 across the state.

A newly published study out of the University of Idaho suggests that the higher perceived risk of a disease, the more likely someone is to vaccinate.

Photo courtesy of Curtis Chong

County and state public health agencies in Colorado have posted coronavirus data, public health orders and testing locations on their websites. But many of those documents, forms and graphics are inaccessible for people with vision impairments.

Courtesy of Lorena

COVID-19 has reached into Hispanic communities in every corner of Colorado, afflicting some at rates more than double their share of the population, a new analysis by the Colorado News Collaborative found.

Courtesy Office of Gov. Jared Polis

Concerned by a recent spike in coronavirus cases, Governor Jared Polis says he will extend the statewide mask mandate for a third time. That means residents will be required to wear face coverings in public at least through mid-November.

Polis says the rise in cases and hospitalizations is the most concerning uptick he has seen since early July. He's also spending an additional $15 million of federal money to help the overall state’s economic recovery. The money will spent on small business loans and food and housing assistance.

The Tri-County Health Department in Colorado is a marriage between three counties. But after 55 years together, the pandemic has them on the brink of divorce.

The relationship started with a devastating flood. Lora Thomas remembers it vividly.

“I remember sitting on Ruby Hill in Denver watching this wall of water coming down the Platte River,” said Thomas. “There were actually horses in that water that had come from a racetrack.”

Winter is coming, and COVID-19 is still here. That means socializing is about to get harder as temperatures drop and activities move indoors.

One potential tactic is to form something called a “social bubble,” also known as a “pandemic pod” or a “quaranteam.” The gist is to join forces with another family, or small group of people, and socialize exclusively with them while maintaining a safe distance from others.

For months it appeared that the Mountain West had COVID-19 somewhat under control. But now the positivity rate is skyrocketing in Wyoming, Idaho, Montana and Utah.

"I feel despair," says Christine Porter, an associate professor of public health at the University of Wyoming.

Antigen testing is expected to become a more common way to test for COVID-19. It looks for the virus’ surface coating, rather than pieces of its genetic material. It’s faster and easier to administer than other tests.

Over the past few months, a number of Japanese health officials have praised their country’s contact tracing approach, saying it’s one of the “secrets” to their early success in containing COVID-19.

The controversial kind of study is called a “human challenge study” and it’s controversial because it involves researchers purposefully infecting (or “challenging”) healthy volunteers with the virus after giving them an experimental treatment or vaccine, to see if it worked.

A few years ago, Arnold Levinson and his colleagues found themselves in what he calls an ethical “pickle.”

They’d been compiling reports to distribute to Colorado schools that had participated in a state-wide anonymous survey, where students would answer questions about their drug use, food access and suicidal ideation, among other topics. The researchers had made a practice of sharing a school’s results as a courtesy for participating in the survey, but they didn’t tell them how they stacked up relative to the norm. Until 2013, when an analyst spotted something.

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.

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