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Carbondale man faces felony after allegedly attacking custodian at Aspen school

A Carbondale man who allegedly attacked a custodian Sunday at Aspen Elementary School was charged Friday with burglary and second-degree assault, according to court records.

Cesar Gonzalez, 24, underwent a mental health evaluation after he was arrested for the offenses. He later admitted to ingesting LSD while allegedly ranting unintelligibly about entering a “portal” and fighting someone “in this other dimension in a different world,” according to a warrantless affidavit filed in Pitkin County District Court.

Both charges filed Friday by the District Attorney’s Office are felonies.

A Carbondale man who allegedly attacked a custodian Sunday at Aspen Elementary School was charged Friday with burglary and second-degree assault, according to court records.

Cesar Gonzalez, 24, underwent a mental health evaluation after he was arrested for the offenses. He later admitted to ingesting LSD while allegedly ranting unintelligibly about entering a “portal” and fighting someone “in this other dimension in a different world,” according to a warrantless affidavit filed in Pitkin County District Court.

Both charges filed Friday by the District Attorney’s Office are felonies.

A Carbondale man who allegedly attacked a custodian Sunday at Aspen Elementary School was charged Friday with burglary and second-degree assault, according to court records.

Cesar Gonzalez, 24, underwent a mental health evaluation after he was arrested for the offenses. He later admitted to ingesting LSD while allegedly ranting unintelligibly about entering a “portal” and fighting someone “in this other dimension in a different world,” according to a warrantless affidavit filed in Pitkin County District Court.

Both charges filed Friday by the District Attorney’s Office are felonies.

WEEKEND COVID-19 UPDATE: Garfield County incidence rate continues to increase, positivity rate at 7.6%

Latest Garfield County COVID-19 Statistics & Trends

Cumulative cases as of Saturday, Oct. 31: 1,208

Newly confirmed cases since Thursday: 17

Deaths since outbreak began: 5

KEY RISK INDICATORS (measures from lowest to highest risk level: Comfortable-Cautious-Concerned-Very High)

Concerned — Rolling two-week total of new cases: Oct. 16-29 – 163 (<30 needed to achieve Comfortable level)

Very High — Case rate per 100,000 people: 271.4 (<75 needed to achieve Comfortable level)

Cautious — Test positivity rate: 7.6% (<4% needed to return to Comfortable level)

Comfortable — Hospital System Capacity: >75%

Concerned — Days before seeking testing, 24-48 hours of symptom onset recommended: 50-65%% (>85% needed to achieve Comfortable level)

Cautious — Test turnaround time; results within 48 hours: 66-85% (>85% needed to achieve Comfortable level)

Cautious — Case interviews within 24 hours: >85%

Source: Garfield County Public Health

Active outbreaks in Garfield County

Garfield County Community Corrections, Rifle: Date determined, 10/19; 14 total confirmed cases, including 10 clients and 4 staff; facility in quarantine and several clients furloughed.

Source: Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment

Valley View Hospital Cumulative Stats 10/29/2020

Specimens collected through Valley View — 11,536 (+188 since 10/27)

Positive results — 553 (+8 since 10/27)

Pending results — 85

Hospitalizations since outbreak began — 77 (0 new since 10/27)

Patients discharged (incl. transfers and deceased) — 68

Grand River Hospital Cumulative Stats 10/29/2020

Specimens collected through Grand River Health — 4,123 (+103 since 10/27)

Positive results — 305 (8 new since 10/27)

Pending results — 49

Hospitalizations since outbreak began — 13 (0 new since 10/22)

Patients discharged — 7

Patients transferred — 5

Source: Hospital statistics released twice weekly on Tuesday and Thursday

Latest note from Garfield County Public Health:

Unfortunately, the incidence rate (amount of cases) and the average positivity (percent of tests that come back positive) continue to increase. Both are key indicators of the virus in the community.

The incidence rate is ‘very high’ at 271.4 cases per 100,000 people. Community spread decreased but remains in the ‘concerned’ tier.

Test turnaround time remains good with 71% of the positive test results coming back within two days. However, the influx of new cases has reduced the contact tracing team’s ability to handle the volume and dipped for the first time into the ‘cautious’ category.

The test positivity rate of 7.6% has also moved to the “cautious” level, while hospital capacity in Garfield County remains in the “comfortable” range.

Garfield County’s death total since the start of the outbreak is five.

Recent cases both locally and statewide seem to be coming from small personal gatherings where people are less likely to remember COVID precautions such as social distancing and mask-wearing. Remember to stay committed to containment and to get tested within 48 hours if you develop symptoms.

Garfield County remains in the overall “cautious” level for risk of spread of COVID-19.

READ THE LATEST GarCo PUBLIC HEALTH UPDATE IN SPANISH.

Garfield County Public Health statistics are updated daily, and hospitals report their latest statistics twice a week on Tuesday and Thursday.

Current public health measures in place for Garfield County

• Facial Coverings: Required in all settings, indoor or outdoor
• Events: 100 people max indoor |175 people max outdoor
• Private Gatherings/Groups: Limited to 10 people from no more than two households
• Personal Services (Salon, massage, spas, etc.): 50% capacity | 50 people max
• Restaurants: 50% capacity | 175 people max
• Gyms/Fitness/Pools: 50% capacity | 175 people max

• Group/League Sports: 25:1 instructor ratio | parents ok; spectators discouraged

• Museums/Libraries: 50% capacity | 50 people max
• Retail (non-critical): 50% capacity | 50 people max
• Outfitters & Guides: 10:1 guest ratio
• Places of Worship: 50% capacity |175 people max indoor
• Life Rites (funerals, weddings, graduations): 50% capacity | 175 people max indoor | outdoor based on social distancing calculator

Glenwood Springs Middle School transitions 52 students to distance learning

Some students at Glenwood Springs Middle School are transitioning to remote learning after an individual displayed symptoms of Covid-19.

In a news release Friday afternoon, the Roaring Fork School District said they have been working with Garfield County Public Health on contact tracing and have “contacted all students and staff who have been exposed.”

The 52 students who were exposed will stay home and quarantine for two weeks.

“Because the individual with symptoms consistent with Covid-19 was last at school on Monday, Oct. 26, those quarantining will be able to return to school on Monday, Nov. 9,” the release states.

In-person classes will continue for those who were not exposed, and the affected areas will be “deep cleared and disinfected prior to the return of non-impacted students and staff.”

58 new COVID-19 cases in Garfield County since Monday, public health officials confirm

Despite confirming 58 new COVID-19 cases since Monday, Garfield County Public Health officials say the current positivity rate is beginning to stabilize.

“We haven’t continued to see a huge spike,” Public Health Specialist Mason Hohstadt told Garfield County commissioners during a special meeting Friday afternoon. “As of right now, I don’t foresee us going above the last week’s period.”

As of Oct. 22, according to statistical reports from Garfield County Public Health, the positivity rate was 5.6%. That rate grew to 7.6% as of Friday afternoon.

Following Gov. Jared Polis’ Wednesday press conference, which urged Colorado residents to remain vigilant this Halloween, Hohstadt said the county’s currently working with the state to begin COVID-19 mitigation. 

Commissioner Tom Jankovsky – who on Monday said, “This commissioner is not going to stand for going back to orange,” – asked Hoshtadt during Friday’s special meeting if the positivity has “plateaued at the high end.”

“Hopefully,” said Hohtsadt.

Hohstadt did report, however, that the county’s dealing with “community spread,” which over the past two-week cycle has accounted for 40% of cases within the county.

“You can look at the community spread and our test positivity rate as two sides of a coin,” Hohstadt explained. “Basically, anything above 5%, there are cases we are not being able to find and test over. And the second thing with that, the community spread – those are cases in which the individual is not sure or does not come specially from a known exposure.”

However, hospitalizations decreased by one within the county since Monday. 

“We also keep a pretty close eye on what St. Mary’s Hospital and Community Hospital (both in Grand Junction) has as admissions and what their hospitalization cases look like, because that’s where our hospitals transfer to,” Garfield County Public Health Director Yvonne Long said. “As of such, we currently have three Garfield County residents at St. Mary’s.”

So far, hospitals within the county have consistently stayed below capacity.

“That’s been one of our saving graces in the county,” Hohstadt said.

Prior to the end of Friday’s special meeting, the commission advised residents to remain home this Halloween, although trick-or-treating is still allowed.

Degrees of warming: How a hotter, thirstier atmosphere wreaks havoc on water supplies in Pitkin County

In November 2018, Marble Town Manager Ron Leach received a letter that he said was a wake-up call.

The letter was a notice from the Colorado Division of Water Resources that the town’s water rights had been “out of priority” for four weeks the previous August and September because of a call placed by a senior water-rights holder downstream on the Crystal River. 

During drought years — and 2018 was an extreme one, with the Crystal running at less than 5% of average after peaking in May, several weeks earlier than usual — junior water-rights holders may have to curtail their water usage until the senior call is satisfied.

“Drought and water supply have been on people’s minds for a long time around here, but we’ve never gotten a letter like that,” Leach said. 

The letter urged the Marble Water Co. — the private company that delivers water to the town’s approximately 150 residents and a handful of businesses — to create a plan of augmentation, which is an alternate source of water such as a storage pond. Without augmentation, the letter warned, a call could subject Marble to a cease-and-desist order on its municipal water wells.

Several other neighborhoods that get their water from the Crystal also narrowly dodged a bullet that August. The same senior call put more than 40 homes in Carbondale at risk of not having water, according to Town Manager Jay Harrington.

Noting that Marble’s water supply barely exceeds peak summer demand, an engineering firm’s preliminary recommendation was for an 11-acre-foot reservoir, which would require 3 to 4 acres of flat ground.

“The town of Marble doesn’t have cash to do anything like that,” said Leach, who added that space in the constrained mountain valley might also be a hurdle. “There’s no easy solution.”

A very dry 2020 has underscored that the water issue is not going away anytime soon. During what’s now widely accepted as a two-decade-long drought in the Colorado River basin, temperatures have risen, summer rains can’t be relied on and streamflows have dropped, with earlier peak flows sometimes leaving little water in streams by late summer. The state’s letter to Marble noted that “it is reasonable to assume that this administration scenario could happen more frequently in the future.”  

To those who deal with water day to day, there’s no question that climate change is here and its impacts are being increasingly felt in the summer.

“It all starts with climate change — that’s the big picture,” Leach said. “What’s happening in Marble, this is the micro-example.”

Other Roaring Fork municipalities also are grappling with climate-caused water-supply issues. The city of Aspen, which provides municipal water from free-flowing Maroon and Castle creeks and has seen Stage 2 water restrictions enacted two of the past three summers, is creating a 50-year water plan — driven in part by climate-change impacts — that may include expanded water storage. In Basalt, the 2018 Lake Christine Fire came close to cutting power supplies, which could have caused the failure of pump stations that deliver water to users. And after one of Glenwood Springs’ water sources was temporarily shut down during this summer’s Grizzly Creek Fire, debris, ash, mudslides and fire retardant pose lingering hazards. 

“We need to continually work on our water systems as we continue to adapt to climate change,” Harrington said. “We are going to have to figure out how to slow it down, but in the meantime, we need to take climate change into our planning.”

The heat is on

Warming temperatures, linked to increased global greenhouse-gas emissions, are the catalyst that impacts other key conditions in the mountains, including lower snowpacks and streamflows, earlier snowmelt and runoff peaks, more precipitation in the form of rain than snow, more frost-free days; and lower soil moisture.   

As average temperatures rise in all seasons, heat waves like the one that gripped Colorado during the summer of 2020 are becoming more common. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, average temperatures from May to October in Pitkin and Garfield counties have risen more than 2 degrees since the 1950s. Some months are warming faster than others. In Pitkin County, June, July and September have warmed by nearly 3 degrees since 1950, while in Garfield County, June and September are 3.5 degrees warmer.

A 2019 report prepared for the town of Carbondale hints that warming has accelerated in the 21st century, with three of the five warmest years on record occurring in the past decade. Also, this past August was the hottest on record for Colorado. In Aspen, the average temperature of 66.9 degrees in August was 5.6 degrees above normal. 

The Roaring Fork Valley sits on the eastern edge of the largest hot spot in the Lower 48, according to a Washington Post project that analyzed data to identify areas that have warmed by more than 3.6 degrees — double the global average — since the industrial revolution.

Scientists are in broad agreement that as long as greenhouse-gas emissions continue to rise — and even if they level off — temperatures will follow suit. Projections for the region range depending on emissions scenarios, but nearly all of them forecast at least another rise of average temperatures of 3 degrees by mid-century and a rise of approximately another 10 degrees by the end of the 21st century. To put this into perspective, a warming Aspen could have the climate of Carbondale or Glenwood Springs, while Glenwood would look and feel like Grand Junction in a few decades.

The atmosphere taketh away

Local summer-precipitation trends are less clear and are dependent on monsoon rains. A report prepared for the town of Carbondale says that average precipitation in the 20th century and since 2000 are about the same.    

Still, the summer of 2020 capped a decade of multiple dry summers. Colorado this year saw its third-driest April-July period on record, according to the National Weather Service. It was the fourth summer in a row with below-average precipitation — even the summer of 2018 saw more rain.

Precipitation projections also are not very clear. But whether there’s a little more or a little less rain and snow in the future, scientists say it doesn’t matter, because warming temperatures mean there is more water leaving the system.

Jeff Lukas, a researcher on NOAA’s Western Water Assessment team, put it this way: “A warming atmosphere is a thirstier atmosphere.” Typically, only about a third of all precipitation makes it into streams and rivers, he said; the other two-thirds is reclaimed by evapotranspiration, which is the combination of evaporation from surfaces and what plants absorb then release. Since evapotranspiration is driven in large part by temperature, as temperatures rise, the amount of water in rivers declines.

“The atmosphere giveth and the atmosphere taketh most of it away,” Lukas said. “Warming is the factor — across all seasons and all water-cycle processes — that draws moisture away from the land surface before becoming runoff.”

The flow is low

After more than a century of diversions, dams, storage projects and other stream manipulations, it’s complicated to calculate trends in natural streamflow, the term for the amount of water in a river. But streamflow, also called runoff, has perhaps the most direct effect on water availability. And trends are not looking good.

Since 2000, according to a recent report, the average annual volume of water in the upper Colorado River basin, from its headwaters to Lees Ferry (just below Lake Powell in Arizona), has dropped 15% below the long-term average from 1906 to 2019. Published last April, the Western Water Assessment’s “Colorado River Basin Climate and Hydrology State of the Science” report compiled ever-increasing evidence about how rising temperatures are contributing to less water in the Colorado River.

Although precipitation is still an important factor, some research shows that warming accounts for as much as half of the water loss. One study calculated that every 1 degree of warming decreases runoff by 7.5%.  

Declining streamflows also are found up the Colorado’s tributaries. Taking into account the water that would’ve been in the stream if it weren’t for diversions and ditches, Lukas calculated that from 2000 to 2018, the Roaring Fork River at Glenwood Springs had 13% less water than the 20th-century average. Analyzing data on the Crystal River near Redstone, he calculated a 5% drop in annual mean streamflow since 2000, compared with the latter half of the 20th century, but a 10% decline during drier years.

In that same analysis of the Crystal, Lukas found that the average date of peak streamflow had shifted one week earlier since 2000: from reliably arriving in June to sometimes coming in May. Multiple studies across the Colorado basin have similarly calculated a one- to four-week earlier runoff. 

In addition, an above-average snowpack doesn’t mean an equivalent runoff, as this past year has shown. After a good winter followed by a warm, dry spring and summer, just 55% of the upper Colorado’s runoff made it into Lake Powell.

Earlier peak runoff and lower flows mean less water (especially in drought years) in late summer and early fall, a critical time for irrigation. 

As with higher temperatures, declining streamflows and earlier runoff are certain into the future, but how much will depend on emissions. In Glenwood Springs, the Roaring Fork’s late summer flows could decline by 30% to 50% by 2070, according to a 2018 analysis by Lukas. 

“Changes to water will touch nearly everything,” he said. “All the risk is on the dry side.”

The underlying factor

Another important factor to consider is one not readily seen: soil moisture. 

One of the metrics used to calculate drought severity, soil moisture has been studied locally by the Aspen Global Change Institute since 2013. This short period of record may preclude discerning any trends about whether local soils are getting drier, but the data show how moisture levels can have a domino effect season to season.

Elise Osenga, community science manager for the institute, likens the soil to a sponge. A dry sponge, like dry soil, absorbs more water than when it’s wet, while a wet sponge, like saturated soil, lets the excess run off. The water that the soil doesn’t absorb goes into streams.

“Climate change is more likely to dry soils in the spring,” Osenga said.

This year, things may have cooled off since August, but drought conditions have worsened, with all of Colorado, as of Oct. 22, experiencing some level of drought and 78% of the state in extreme or exceptional drought. This doesn’t bode well for spring.

“What happens in September and October is actually really interesting, because it plays a big role in determining whether we start the next spring already at risk of a drought versus in better shape,” Osenga said.

With multiple dry years over the past two decades, some scientists are wondering if we’re entering a period of megadrought, which hasn’t been seen in several hundred years. 

No single drought is evidence of climate change, Lukas said, but “what we’re seeing since 2000 is that climate change is stacking the deck. We’re more prone to the deep droughts, the ones that sneak out of left field like in 2020.”

And even with good planning, that’s sure to make water managers in Marble and Carbondale and throughout the Colorado River basin nervous.

“We do see changing conditions, whether attributable to increased demand/development by water users, drought or long-term climate change,” wrote Colorado water commissioner Jake DeWolfe in an email. “Any of them leads to the same problem: a shortage of water. We are involved in planning for the future likelihood that we will need to limit, if not curtail, uses in Colorado to meet the needs of downstream states.”

Aspen Journalism is a local, nonprofit, investigative news organization covering the environment in collaboration with The Aspen Times and other Swift Communications newspapers. For an extended version of this story, go to aspenjournalism.org.

Judge forbids David Lesh from national forest land after latest social media post

A part-time Colorado resident who documents his disrespect for public lands on social media learned Friday what happens when defendants try to go toe-to-toe with a federal judge.

After agreeing to a compromise earlier this month that allowed David Lesh to enter U.S. Forest Service lands if he agreed to abide by the same rules as everyone else, U.S. Magistrate Gordon Gallagher lowered the boom on Lesh for appearing to flout that agreement 19 days later when he posted a picture of himself purportedly defecating in Maroon Lake.

As of Friday, Lesh, 35, will no longer be allowed to enter millions of acres of U.S. Forest Service lands for the foreseeable future thanks to the Maroon Lake photo posted Oct. 21 on Instagram, Gallagher said.

In addition to the ban, the judge forbid Lesh from posting any picture or video on any social media platform of himself or anyone else violating state or federal laws on any federal lands under the jurisdiction of the court, including National Forests, National Monuments, Bureau of Land Management land and other federal property, the judge said.

“I find it appropriate to change (Lesh’s bond conditions) … to protect the land not only from Mr. Lesh’s direct actions, but also from the influence Mr. Lesh clearly has” on social media, Gallagher said. The judge also said he was issuing the ruling “to ensure the safety of the community.”

The ban will last at least the duration of the current federal case against him.

Lesh asked the judge to postpone the ban and the other conditions until he could hire a new attorney, probably by the end of next week.

“The request is denied,” Gallagher said, noting that Lesh must sign the new conditions by Tuesday or risk arrest.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Grand Junction had already threatened to ban Lesh from U.S. Forest lands in early October. That’s when he appeared in U.S. District Court to answer allegations that he trespassed — and posted proof of his actions on social media — at Keystone Ski Area in late April and Hanging Lake near Glenwood Springs this summer.

However, Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Hautzinger and Lesh’s attorney, Stephen Laische of Grand Junction, were able to work out a compromise that was accepted by Gallagher Oct. 2. Under conditions of that compromise, Lesh agreed not to trespass on closed national forest lands and abide by all rules on open lands or risk arrest and/or forfeiture of a $1,000 bond.

Nineteen days later, he posted the Maroon Lake picture on Instagram with a caption Gallagher read out loud during Friday’s virtual court hearing.

“Moved to Colorado 15 years ago, finally made it to Maroon Lake,” Lesh wrote. “A scenic dump with no one there was worth the wait.”

A law enforcement officer with the U.S. Forest Service, who supervised the investigation into the photo, noted in an affidavit that Maroon Lake is “part of the watershed that supplies drinking water to Aspen, Colorado and is one of the most visited sites in the National Forest system,” according to a motion Hautzinger filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court. The photo was included with the motion.

“What appears to be fecal matter exiting the body of Lesh is visible in the photo,” according to the officer’s affidavit.

The officer also noted that it is against the rules to enter Maroon Lake in any way, including wading, swimming or boating. However, he also found evidence that the photo “may be older or manipulated in some manner,” according to the affidavit.

“(The forest service officer) reported to me that water level in Maroon Lake was currently lower than the Instagram post depicts as well as the presence of floating avalanche debris in the lake that is not present in the Instagram photo,” Special Agent Ben Leach wrote in the affidavit. “(The officer) was also unable to locate the driftwood log in the foreground (of Lesh’s photo).”

On Friday, Hautzinger acknowledged that the photo might have been taken before Gallagher accepted the bond condition compromise Oct. 2.

“But the mere posting of the photo shows the defendant’s intent to flout the court’s order,” Hautzinger said.

Laische filed a motion Oct. 22 to withdraw as Lesh’s attorney, “as a result of the defendant’s latest Instagram posting,” according to Hautzinger’s motion. Laische on Friday cited “irreconcilable difference” with his client in wanting to end the relationship, though he continued to act as Lesh’s attorney throughout Friday’s proceedings.

Laische called Lesh’s actions “injudicious,” but said a total ban on millions of acres of forest land was not appropriate or enforceable.

The judge disagreed.

Gallagher acknowledged that “it’s entirely conceivable that (Lesh’s) conduct is contemptuous of the court’s order of Oct. 2,” but the conduct did not occur in the judge’s presence, so he said it wasn’t for him revoke Lesh’s bond and have him arrested. The U.S. Attorney’s Office can proceed with contempt of court charges against Lesh if it wants, he said.

But it was within Gallagher’s purview to alter the conditions of Lesh’s $1,000 bond, he said, before issuing the forest ban.

Lesh’s Maroon Lake post has prompted condemnation from nearly every corner of the Roaring Fork Valley.

The Forest Service’s district ranger whose territory includes the Maroon Bells area called the picture “deeply offensive,” while Pitkin County’s sheriff said Lesh’s behavior was “totally unacceptable.” Area residents were equally outraged.

Not only did that come through in comments on the websites of both Aspen daily newspapers, but also on Lesh’s Instagram post itself, though he also received accolades from his supporters for the photo. In addition, 23 people — mainly Roaring Fork Valley residents — wrote letters to Gallagher that are part of Lesh’s court file urging the harshest punishment possible for his repeated acts of disrespect to public lands in the area.

Most of those letters expressed variations of the sentiment succinctly conveyed by Christopher Anson of Aspen.

“Please throw the book at David Lesh,” Anson wrote. “Please give him the maximum sentences for every infraction. Please ban him from ALL public lands. He obviously has no respect for the court’s previous actions.”

Lesh first came to attention of Aspen locals July 3, 2019, when the executive director of the Independence Pass Foundation spotted him piloting his snowmobile over grass and fragile terrain near the Upper Lost Man Trailhead on Independence Pass. He was charged with four petty offenses after a Forest Service investigation and later paid a $500 fine and performed 50 hours of community service under terms of a plea deal.

Just as that case wound down, Lesh was charged with riding his snowmobile in Keystone’s terrain park while the ski area was closed because of COVID-19. He posted a photo of himself taking the sled off a jump. At the same time, he was charged with five counts related to his entering Hanging Lake on June 10 while it was closed because of the coronavirus and posting a picture of himself illegally climbing on a log in the lake.

That case remains ongoing.

On Friday, Gallagher asked if Lesh understood the new conditions forbidding him from National Forests and from posting pictures of himself or others breaking laws on federal public lands.

“The post of the defecating in Maroon Lake …” Lesh began before Laische cut him off.

“I’m advising you to refrain from talking about that,” his soon-to-be ex-lawyer said. “Please don’t get into that.”

Lesh continued to try to speak and Laische continued to try and stop him ­ at one point telling him “No” and that he could not talk in court ­ until Gallagher finally broke in.

“David Lesh, stop talking for a moment,” the judge said, noting that Laische’s advice to stop talking was good because Lesh can be charged by the government in connection with the Maroon Lake photo.

Covid-19 cases climb to 14 in Criminal Justice center outbreak in Rifle

There are 14 total confirmed cases and five probable cases at the Criminal Justice Center outbreak in Rifle as of Friday afternoon.

In a news release, Garfield County reports that 10 clients and four staffers are confirmed to have the coronavirus while four clients and one staffer probable cases awaiting test results.

“Several of the new cases are in clients that had been furloughed and living away from the facility for seven days or longer,” the release states. “Two of the Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC) clients that furloughed a week ago reported this morning that they have new positive tests. They are living in a group setting in Rifle with a CDOC client that had previously tested positive.”

Garfield County contracted a company to sanitize the entire criminal justice center building on Wednesday, and the company “will continue to conduct sanitizations, while equipment is en route for internal and frequent sanitizations by staff,” according to the release.

With many clients now furloughed away from the facility, there is enough space to isolate future positive cases in one wing, the release states. The Colorado Department of Public Health’s Rapid Response Team has increased the rate of testing of all clients and staff to twice weekly.

“The next round of results is expected Monday,” the release states. “The team is going to retest every three days until they have one round of negatives; then will test every seven days until two negative rounds occur.”

Pitkin County limits size of informal gatherings to 5 just before Halloween weekend

Just in time for Halloween, the Pitkin County Board of Health voted Thursday to reduce the size of informal gatherings from 10 to five for at least the next two weeks.

The decision — a 4-2 divided vote — came on the heels of news that the county’s incidence rate of COVID-19 rose above the threshold between Level 2 and Level 3 restrictions on Tuesday and Wednesday, which could lead to harsher community restrictions.

“There are 11 outbreaks we’re investigating in Pitkin County,” said Public Health Director Karen Koenemann. “A lot are related to informal gatherings. So what we’re seeing is more disease transmission because of these gatherings.”

The informal gathering cap of five people goes into effect Friday and can include a maximum of two households. The state’s current public health order caps informal gatherings at 10 people and a maximum of two households.

The five-person maximum does not include restaurant seating — now capped at 10 per table — or work places, child care centers, family households larger than five people or any events that need or have been issued a permit by public health.

The state grades counties on three metrics when it comes to COVID-19: incidence rate based on 100,000 population, positivity rate and hospitalization rate. Pitkin County ranks in the lowest category in the state in positivity rate and hospitalizations, according to statistics Thursday.

However, the county’s incidence rate is a problem.

It cannot go above 175 per 100,000 population for three consecutive days or the state contacts local public health authorities and requires a mitigation plan to bring the rate back down. If it remains above 175 for two weeks, the state will move Pitkin County to Level 3 restrictions, which will make life more difficult for restaurants, businesses and the community as a whole.

Pitkin County’s incidence rate was 185.9 on Tuesday and Wednesday, though it dropped back down to 152.1 on Thursday, according to online statistics.

“Our goal is to change the path we’re on,” said Suzuho Shimasaki, deputy public health director.

The county has a mitigation plan should the state require it, and part of it is to limit informal gatherings, Koenemann said.

Three of the 11 outbreaks — which have occurred in the past 28 days — have involved informal gatherings in Pitkin County, said Josh Vance, Pitkin County’s epidemiologist. One involved a large party that police stumbled on to while investigating a noise complaint, Koenemann said.

Vance said informal gatherings tend to produce more and serious cases than other outbreaks at work places or schools. Anecdotal evidence suggests that closer proximity in such settings and more time to be exposed might infect a person with a stronger viral load, he said.

The county reported four new cases Wednesday, two on Tuesday and two on Monday, while 108 people currently are under quarantine orders, Vance said. The county has reported a total of 284 positive cases since the outbreak began in March.

The proposal to reduce informal group size was not uniformly accepted at Thursday’s Board of Health meeting. Aspen Mayor Torre initially balked at the reduction, but agreed to support it when Vance said there is a “marked difference” between spread among a group of 10 as opposed to 5. Torre also said he thought the reduced group size would be a good idea with Halloween coming up on Saturday.

“This is difficult,” he said. “My hope is this is a two-week measure.”

Pitkin County Commissioner Greg Poschman voted against the five-person cap because it is unenforceable and inconsistent with the state order, which could confuse people.

“Especially when 10 (people) can co-mingle in a restaurant,” he said. “I’m not sure I understand here.”

Koenemann and Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock said enforcement — except in egregious cases when police or public health must step in — is up to everyone in the community.

“We cannot enforce our way into boxing this virus in,” Peacock said. “Everyone needs to continue taking responsibility and fighting through the fatigue to changes we’ve all had to make in our lives.

“We can’t enforce our way out of this. We have to behave our way out of this.”

At-large health board member Jeannie Seybold cast the other dissenting vote against reducing the informal gathering cap. Snowmass Village Mayor and health board Chair Markey Butler, Torre and members Brent Miller and Linda Vieira supported the reduction.

Peacock emphasized the need for community members to remain vigilant of social distancing and avoiding crowds on Halloween. Go to covid19.pitkincounty.com/Halloween for tips and suggestions for safer alternatives to the usual Halloween activities.

Anniversary for Roger and Ardis Wulf

Anniversary

Roger and Ardis Wulf

October 14, 2020

“JUST MARRIED”- 70 years ago!

Roger and Ardis are longtime residents of the Glenwood Springs area. They were married October 14, 1950 in Willmar, MN. They were able to celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary with their children Cheryl, Marcia, Vicki & Bob and extended family in Brainerd MN. Roger and Ardis are blessed to have had 5 children, 14 grandchildren and 26 great grandchildren.

Obituary: Shirley Marie (Maddalone) Downing

Shirley Marie (

Maddalone) Downing

June 2, 1939 – October 22, 2020

Shirley Marie (Maddalone) Downing, 81, of Glenwood Springs, Colorado passed away peacefully in her sleep on October 22, 2020. Shirley was born to Virgil Curtis and Cora (Wilson) Curtis on June 2, 1939 in Canyon City, Colorado. She was one of seven children. Shirley married Lawrence Dale Maddalone at the age of seventeen and had four children. Karra (Donald) Snyder, Virgil (Judy) Maddalone, James (Cindy) Maddalone, and Tina Maddalone. They moved their family to Michigan and lived there until 1975 when Dale passed away. Shirley then returned to Colorado with her four children to live. Shirley met Edward Downing and they were married on August 25, 1984. She became a step-mother to three daughters, Lorie (Noel) Crawford, Lana (Jeff) Holub and Linda (Michael) Mansfield. Shirley was a beautiful seamstress and enjoyed making quilts for her family and friends. She enjoyed baking, doing puzzles and many other crafts. Shirley is survived by her 7 children, 8 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren. She is preceded in death by her parents, her husband Edward, 2 brothers and 2 sisters. The family plans a private service at a later date. Condolences may be mailed to Tina Maddalone at 417 East 23rd Street A18, Glenwood Springs, Co., 81601.