Pitkin County Public Health Director Karen Koenemann signed an order late Monday that restricts residents from leaving their homes, closes nonessential businesses and requests tourists to leave the county.
The “stay at home” order is a reaction to the presumed community spread of COVID-19 in the region, and is in effect at least through April 17.
“The point of it is to guide people to stay home and contain the virus right here,” said Aspen Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn, public information officer for the multijurisdictional Incident Management Team that was established after the first known COVID-19 case connected to Aspen was confirmed March 8.
The order restricts all individuals living in Pitkin County from leaving their residences except for reasons pertaining to their health, to obtain food for themselves or their pets, or to recreate while following previously mandated social-distancing guidelines.
Additionally, nonresidents are being asked to leave and to stay away.
“Visitors to Pitkin County are directed to return home immediately upon the issuance of this Order by the fastest and safest available means, and persons considering visiting Pitkin County should remain home,” the order states.
Additionally, businesses not listed as “essential” are ordered to cease operations unless it is a situation wherein only one employee or contractor is working alone.
Essential businesses include health care, critical government operations, grocery stores, media outlets, gas stations, shipping service and restaurants providing take-out orders only or packaged alcohol to go. Licensed marijuana and liquor stores can remain open.
Among the specific industries that are asked to shut down for the time being are residential and commercial construction, though those sites are given until March 31 to cease operations so that they can be shut down safely.
In a series of restrictions issued on March 18, the IMT acknowledged that there are certainly more known exposures to the virus than testing can reveal, and the best way to manage the impact of the virus is to keep new cases low enough that the local health system does not get overwhelmed by demand for service.
Though the county does not have the testing resources to get swabs from any but the sickest patients, beginning Tuesday the public health department will roll out a community symptom tracker, in which residents can self-report symptoms.
“The public has been asking for this,” Linn said.
The local announcement comes on the same day that Denver Mayor Michael Hancock issued a stay-at-home order for the city. The order begins at 5 p.m. Tuesday and lasts through April 10.
The order “requires all individuals anywhere in the City and County of Denver to shelter in place — that is at home — except for certain essential activities.”
Not included in the essential-services category were retail marijuana stores and liquor stores, causing lines and crowds as the public rushed to stock up within the 24-hour window. By late afternoon Monday, the order was updated to allow certain shops to stay open.
“Liquor stores with extreme physical distancing in place will be exempt. All marijuana stores with extreme physical distancing in place will be exempt,” the update read.
Though he has yet to implement a statewide shelter-in-place mandate, Gov. Jared Polis praised Hancock’s actions Monday.
“I’m strongly in support of these local efforts, and it’s extremely important that just as our state is acting boldly and urgently, that our county health departments are also taking strong actions guided by science, data and the real-life situation on the ground — including taking into account local factors like population density and concentration of coronavirus cases — to best contain the spread of the virus,” said Polis in a prepared statement on Monday.
In that same release, he praised Eagle and Summit counties for leading the way in restricting their public health orders. On March 18, Heath Harmon, director of Eagle County Public Health and Environment, released a statement acknowledging that COVID-19 testing is far behind reality in the resort communities.
“Local health officials throughout Eagle County now suspect that hundreds, if not thousands of community members have contracted COVID-19,” Harmon said.
As for the Pitkin County order, the language should be published to the Pitkin County Health and Human Services website by Tuesday morning. Those who fail to comply face a $5,000 penalty or jail time.