Ghost town

Downtown Aspen, currently in a state of emergency, was eerily empty on Friday at noon as news of the spread of coronavirus and its related disease COVID-19 through the community has impacted countless events and curtailed the activities of visitors and locals alike.

The Aspen City Council held an emergency meeting on Friday to unanimously pass a resolution extending the city’s Thursday declaration of a state of emergency related to the spread of the coronavirus and its related disease, COVID-19.

Friday’s resolution extends the state of emergency to an unspecified date, “until such time as the City Council terminates such declaration.” The Thursday declaration said the state of emergency was not to exceed seven days.

In addition, the council on Friday amended city council rules and regulations to address public meetings during times of emergency. The resolution states that City Manager Sara Ott may adopt rules and procedures “for the conduct of and attendance at City Council meetings through electronic means for council members and members of the public during the emergency period.” Whether those meetings will be televised or conducted via some type of audio system was not determined.

“I want to say to the entire Aspen community, residents, businesses and our guests, we care about you,” Mayor Torre said at the meeting. “Your health and safety are our top priorities, during this unprecedented time of the spread of COVID-19. This is unprecedented not just in Aspen, but in our country, and in our modern world.”

Torre said there are 10 known local positive tests for the coronavirus, and all 10 individuals affected are being voluntarily isolated.

On Thursday, the city closed the doors of several city-owned entities at least through March 31. Those entities included the Wheeler Opera House, the Aspen Recreation Center, the Red Brick Center for the Arts, Aspen Ice Garden and the golf simulator at Aspen Golf Course. In addition, non-mandatory advisory boards and commissions, as well as classes at the ARC, the Red Brick Center for the Arts and the Red Brick Gym, were all suspended until April 15.

“We are not just following the best practices for mitigating potential spread of COVID-19, we are setting examples for other organizations and institutions and businesses in the valley who are also discouraging public gatherings,” Torre said.

He added that the public will continue to be updated about the situation on the city of Aspen’s website and social-media avenues.

“One of the most important things to take to heart is that we are all in this together,” Torre said. “In this uncharted territory as a community we can come together and support one another, help friends and neighbors and offer the best that we have in us to diminish this threat to our community and hopefully shorten the length of time this virus will be active in our valley.”

Also on Friday, Pitkin County government issued a notice of the public health order it declared on Thursday. Most county staff will be working remotely until further notice “and all meetings with staff will be conducted via email, telephone or video conferencing.

“Our Continuity of Operations Plan is in full swing,” said County Manager Jon Peacock. “Admittedly there are many issues we did not anticipate with the onslaught of this novel virus in our community but our dedicated public servants are now working around-the-clock to not only try to hunt down and reduce the spread of coronavirus here but to maintain all essential government operations.”

For the most up-to-date local information, the county advises visiting pitkincounty.com/coronavirus. Or, call the county’s coronavirus hotline with questions at (970) 429-6186.