Covid-19 graphic

A patient at Aspen Valley Hospital with COVID-19 died of the coronavirus-caused disease over the weekend, marking the fifth casualty of the pandemic in Pitkin County since March 2020. 

There was very little information available Tuesday about the fatality. 

According to Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock, it happened a few days ago.

The patient was an “elderly member of our community,” according to Peacock, and the person who died of the coronavirus-caused disease was fully vaccinated.

That last detail gave pause to county commissioners, who heard about the casualty during their regular work session Tuesday.

“Fully vaccinated and then tested positive again?” Commissioner Patti Clapper posed. 

Peacock acknowledged that there have been breakthrough cases — 221 since April 1, according to the Pitkin County dashboard. This is the first death in the county since the rollout of vaccines.

“I don’t think I know a whole lot more than you do at this point — my understanding is we do have someone who was fully vaccinated but was an older member of our community and I think more will be coming out on that, but I don’t know a whole lot more about it than you,” Peacock said.

Greg Poschman, county commissioner and chair of the Pitkin County Board of Health, announced the death during the work session. 

“The sad news is that we’ve had another fatality in the community due to COVID,” he said. 

Aspen Valley Hospital Chief Marketing Officer Jennifer Slaughter confirmed Tuesday evening that the death occurred at the hospital but could provide little more detail.

“AVH can confirm that a patient with COVID-19 passed away at our facility over the weekend. Respecting the patient’s privacy, we are not able to provide any additional information,” she said. “We extend our most sincere condolences to the family and friends of the patient for their loss.”

There was no press release from the Pitkin County Coroner’s Office detailing the age, sex or cause of death, explained Deputy Coroner Audra Keith, because coroners no longer handle COVID-19 cases — rather, they are considered public health events.

“In order for any hospital death to be a coroner case, they would have to be admitted less than 24 hours,” she explained. “If they were in the hospital and died of COVID, they’d have to be in the hospital less than 24 hours [for it to be handled by the coroner].”

Peacock emphasized during Tuesday’s work session the importance of continued indoor mask wearing, even for vaccinated people, and that the most recent loss to the community underscores that necessity.

“That’s why the indoor masking even amongst the vaccinated is so important,” he said, adding that the county’s indoor mask mandate is drafted and ready to be signed by Public Health Director Jordana Sabella. The plan is for that to occur tomorrow, with the mandate going into effect Thursday.

“Per the discussion with the board of health, the direction was to continue watching that hospitalization data,” Peacock said of future public health orders.

In the seven days leading up to Monday, the county had recorded 45 new COVID-19 cases among residents, with an additional 11 from out-of-county visitors who tested positive.

Megan Tackett is the editor for the Aspen Daily News. She can be reached at megan@aspendailynews.com or on Twitter @MeganTackett10.