Four “yes” votes is all it would take from the Pitkin County Board of Health to move the county into red- or even purple-level restrictions, and those votes could come as soon as Monday.
The Pitkin County Board of Health already met on Thursday as the county’s incidence rate showed no signs of trending down, but it did not take any policy action that would have made public health orders more restrictive. Instead, the health board postponed any such decision until 1 p.m. Monday, in order to receive more public input.
“Pitkin County’s orange-plus-plus that we have been trying has not brought our incidence rates down, as evidenced by all of the data,” Jordana Sabella, Pitkin County interim public health director, said during Thursday’s BOH meeting, adding: “Our current incidence rates are really unlikely to decrease without any further protective measures.”
Pitkin County Public Health has recommended moving the county into red-level restrictions if its incidence rate stays above 700 per 100,000 residents for 14 days.
As of Friday, Pitkin County’s 14-day incidence rate was 2,523.
According to data shared at a previous health board meeting, counties that moved into level red mostly experienced sustained declines in their incidence rates, whereas those in orange largely saw growth or plateaus in their incidence rates.
Should the board of health adopt red-level restrictions, Pitkin County’s restaurants would bear the brunt of the “severe-risk” category’s accompanying restrictions, as indoor dining would be prohibited. Instead, restaurants in Aspen, Snowmass Village and throughout Pitkin County would have to rely entirely on takeout or delivery customers.
Local restaurateur Ryan Chadwick, who owns Aspen Pie Shop and Nakazawa Aspen, said in an interview Friday that he was concerned about his more-than 40 employees and what it would mean for them if indoor dining was no more.
“I know this vote doesn’t come easy for the Pitkin County Board of Health, but they really need to think about the ramifications of what their decision will be — not just for business owners, but for everyone,” Chadwick said.
Chadwick expanded, explaining that he ordered ingredients weekly, often based upon reservations, and that shutting down a restaurant was not as easy as flipping a light switch, especially with perishable products involved.
“We just bought $20,000 worth of fish,” Chadwick said. “We would be out thousands of dollars.”
Now in level orange on the state dial, restaurants in neighboring Garfield County can operate at 25% capacity indoors, as is the case for dining establishments in Eagle County.
The state’s level-red restrictions do not restrict lodging capacities and still allows both critical and non-critical retail establishments to operate at 50% capacity.
“The best science we have says that maskless people in confined spaces and enclosed spaces are a huge part of the spread, and the data shows that,” Greg Poschman, Pitkin County commissioner and board of health member, said Friday. “We are not trying to single anybody out because we are cruel; what we’re trying to do is get a handle on a virus that has the concern of so many people.”
Aspen Chamber Resort Association President and CEO Debbie Braun said ACRA had already reached out to representatives from each sector to discuss what they could and could not support, restriction wise.
“Everybody is willing to meet in a moment’s notice because this is really talking about their businesses for the rest of the year,” Braun said. “Business wants to be a partner in all of this.”