Aspen Valley Hospital received its first COVID-19 vaccine shipments this week.

As local health care officials praised the Pfizer vaccine’s arrival earlier this week, they also pleaded with people not to let their guard, or masks, down.

“We are in a precarious situation,” Dr. Kimberly Levin, Pitkin County medical officer, said during Thursday’s board of health meeting. “This is a huge warning out to really be cautionary about relaxing anything and to consider steps toward tightening at this point. It’s a critical juncture.”

Levin’s comments came after Jordana Sabella, Pitkin County’s interim public health director, presented data comparing incidence rates in counties operating in level red on the state’s COVID-19 dial to those in level orange.

“What we see is that red has been effective,” Sabella said, citing counties that entered the “severe-risk” level on Nov. 2 and had since seen their incidence rates decline. “[What] the state is saying is, ‘we’re seeing that this red level on the dial works to decrease incidence rates.’”

According to the data, since adhering to level red restrictions, Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver and Douglas counties had mostly experienced sustained declines in incidence rates.

Level red’s corresponding restrictions prohibit indoor dining and indoor entertainment events. Additionally, under level red, offices and gyms must curtail their indoor operating capacities to 10%.

While several counties operating in the red saw their incidence rates decline, counties still classified under level orange generally experienced growth or plateaus in their respective incidence rates.

Pitkin County, which implemented its own “orange-plus” level of restrictions, has continued to see its incidence rate climb, too. In the last 14 days, Pitkin County’s incidence rate was 1,143. In order to meet the level orange threshold, a county’s two-week incidence rate must be no more than 350.

The state calculates local incidence rates by dividing the total number of COVID-19 cases in the last 14 days over a community’s population and multiplying that figure by 100,000.

“We have been trying to strike a balance between protecting the public from the risk of [COVID-19] infections while also legitimately balancing the other social determinants of health, which have to do with employment and socialization,” Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock said. “We have really been trying hard to make decisions that recognize both sides of that equation and that don’t ignore one side to the detriment of the other.”

In neighboring Garfield County, Valley View Hospital, like Aspen Valley Hospital in Pitkin County, received its first shipment of vaccines earlier this week.

“This is a historic moment,” Dr. David Brooks, Valley View’s chief medical officer, said in a news release. “Today, we begin to turn the tide of the pandemic in our community.”

The Pfizer vaccine’s arrival at local hospitals came shortly after the U.S. surpassed 300,000 COVID-19 deaths.

Matthew Bennett is a reporter for the Aspen Daily News. He can be reached at: matthew@aspendailynews.com