Well over 1,000 people tuned into Monday’s Pitkin County Board of Health special meeting, and the board’s decision to implement red-level restrictions will undoubtedly impact far more.
Beginning Sunday, Pitkin County restaurants will no longer be able to offer indoor dining and instead will have to rely almost entirely on to-go, curbside and delivery orders, with outdoor dining limited to single-household tables. Additionally, restaurants will have to adhere to an 8 p.m. last call.
“We know that whenever people are indoors without a mask, that is when transmission occurs, and that is indisputable — it’s the science,” board member Dr. Jeannie Seybold said. “I implore the community to take that into account because it’s not just the restaurants; it’s people getting together indoors.”
Red-level restrictions also require offices and gyms to operate at 10% capacity and prohibits indoor events from occurring. However, critical and non-critical retail businesses can continue to operate at 50% capacity. Lodging establishments can also operate at no more than 50% capacity beginning Sunday and must limit units to no more than one household, regardless of when the reservation was made.
Other than to prohibit indoor dining from occurring at ski areas, Monday’s decision had little impact on skiing operations.
“I just wanted to ask staff if they have had any consideration — this isn’t overkill at this point as far as I’m concerned — [for] pursuing reckless endangerment [in enforcing the restrictions]?” board member Brent Miller posed. “When you knowingly break the law and endanger other people, that’s almost a prima-facie evidence case.”
Who would enforce the forthcoming red-level restrictions and exactly how they would go about doing so was not immediately clear Monday. Officials have maintained that the county “cannot enforce” its way out of the pandemic.
As of Monday, half of Aspen Valley Hospital’s intensive care unit beds were occupied with COVID-19 patients.
“Of our four-bed capacity in the ICU, there are two that are now occupied by COVID patients,” Pitkin County Medical Officer Dr. Kim Levin said. “I wanted to make the point. They’re young.”
Twelve of AVH’s 20 total hospital beds were still available on Monday; however, public health and hospital officials have stressed how those same beds must accommodate all hospital patients.
Local public health officials have routinely pointed to data showing the impact of red-level restrictions on counties that adhered to them.
After Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver and Douglas counties moved into level red in early November, all six saw their incidence rates experience mostly sustained declines.
As of Monday, Pitkin County’s two-week incidence rate was the second highest in the state, at 2,934.
Pitkin County will move out of level red when its incidence rate registers below 700 and shows a 14-day decrease. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, a county’s two-week incidence rate reaches “severe-risk” level metrics when it surpasses 350.
During Monday’s health board meeting, several attendees called in to petition the board not to prohibit indoor dining, given how many jobs would be lost as a result.
“Both my husband and I work in restaurants and sort of depend on this livelihood, and as you can hear, my 4-month-old daughter depends on our livelihood as well,” Lindze Letherman said. “Please — you know, we’re people, and we are individuals who really, really do depend on this work. So please … take that into consideration before you make us jobless.”