Increased police presence during the evening at the Aspen roundabout is meant to reassure, and not to intimidate the public, Aspen Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn said Sunday.
Linn — who also is the public information officer for the multi-jurisdictional incident management team formed after the first COVID-19 case was connected to Aspen — said law enforcement vehicles recently stationed at the city’s entrance are not an attempt to crackdown on people moving about since Pitkin County issued a stay-at-home order on March 23. The order also asks nonresidents to leave “by the fastest and safest available means.”
Gov. Jared Polis announced a statewide order for Colorado two days after Pitkin County’s declaration; on Friday, the governor implemented a 50 percent reduction for in-person work at nonessential businesses.
“We’re not pulling people over and checking what their reasons are for being out,” Linn said. “People are allowed to go to those businesses that are deemed essential services.”
Essential services include grocery, pharmaceutical and liquor stores and dispensaries, medical clinics and hospitals and businesses that provide veterinary care. Restaurants that provide food take-out and delivery, people working in health, child and senior care, and those who support critical infrastructure also are included, as are members of the media and workers at financial institutions.
With proper social-distancing etiquette, outdoor exercise is allowed, providing an outlet for cooped-up locals who have abided by the stay-at-home orders.
Linn said the shroud of quiet that’s dropped over Aspen recently is “a little eerie.” He referenced a recent APD Facebook post that reads, “Now in the middle of the coronavirus crisis, it kinda feels a little like our own quiet days.” (Aspen’s “Quiet Years” have been defined as a four-decade period following the 1893 silver-mining bust.)
To that point, Linn further defended the decision by the department to provide a more obvious physical presence at the city’s entrance.
“People see we’re out and it provides a sense of order and normalcy,” he said.
Police have been aided by citizens whom Linn said have been applying plenty of “social pressure” on their friends and neighbors to comply with the 6-foot physical separation rule, one of many guards against the spread of coronavirus.
Rules shaming by community members makes it easier on the cops, who don’t have to do it themselves.
“There’s a lot of social pressure to be compliant with this order,” Linn said.
Officially, two Pitkin County residents, who tested positive for COVID-19, have died. The most recent fatality was 55-year-old Pauli Laukkanen, who was found on Tuesday while police were performing a welfare check. The coroner reported Laukkanen died the previous Sunday.
As of Saturday, according to an Associated Press report, the number of people in Colorado who have died from COVID-19 was 44 while 2,060 people in the state have tested positive. Also on Saturday, President Trump approved a disaster declaration for Colorado that will allow for additional federal assistance for state, local and tribal response to the COVID-19 outbreak.