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Doctors to address health questions around Roaring Fork Schools classroom return

The Roaring Fork School District hosts a pair of medical consults this week for parents, one in English Tuesday and the other in Spanish Thursday, regarding the district’s return to in-person learning plans and coronavirus protocols that are in place.

Mountain Family Health Center’s Dr. Maria Roques and Valley View Hospital’s Dr. David Brooks will speak via Zoom, followed by a brief question-and-answer session. Find the link here.

The English version runs from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, and the Spanish version will be at the same time Thursday.

“The purpose of the presentations is to share honest and accurate information about Covid-19 and implications for in-person learning,” according to a post on the district’s website.

Drs. Brooks and Roques are set to discuss risk mitigation strategies, practices and recommendations for families and children as in-person classes resume for students in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt.

The district began bringing students back into schools with the grades K-3 last week and grades 4-8 this week. District high schools are slated to return to in-person classes on Nov. 4.

Garfield County to roll back some COVID variance allowances in response to latest case surge

Garfield County plans to voluntarily move to the state’s Safer at Home Level 2 restrictions for business activities and gatherings, given the latest spike in new coronavirus case numbers.

The county has received confirmation of 72 new cases of COVID-19 in the past week, including more than 20 new cases over the weekend, Garfield County Public Health Director Yvonne Long said in a Monday update to county commissioners.

Over the past two weeks, the county has had 137 cases, and the incidence rate has increased from less than 200 per 100,000 people at the end of last week to 228.1 per 100,000 as of Monday.

And, about 6.5% of COVID-19 tests in the county are coming back positive, up from less than 5% in recent weeks.

Those statistics mirror what is happening in many other parts of the state, Long said, including the tri-county region of Garfield, Pitkin and Eagle counties. Mesa County to the west has also reverted from the lowest-restriction Protect Our Neighbors status to Safer Level 1 due to a spike in cases there.

Though hospitalizations have been increasing in some areas of Colorado, Garfield County remains in the “comfortable” range.

“We do want to keep it at that, and not have our hospitals overrun,” Long said.

The county should make some effort to try to reverse the case trend in order to avoid the state mandating even stricter protection levels, she said.

“We are getting at the point where the state looks at us as moving from yellow (Safer Level 2/Concern) to orange (Safer Level 3/High Risk),” Long said, referring to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s color coding for its five risk levels.

Due to the state-approved variances in place for Garfield County, many of the county’s restrictions are in line with Safer Level 1 (Cautious), she said. So, there’s room for adjustment without major impacts on business and personal activities, she said.

Under the yellow Safer Level 2, the biggest changes would be:

  • Limiting gyms and fitness centers to 25% capacity, instead of 50% as currently allowed.
  • Limiting restaurants and indoor places of worship to 50% capacity with a maximum of 50-100 (depending on ability to social distance based on square foot), from the current allowance of 50% or up to 175 people.
  • Limiting private gatherings to no more than 10 people from two households, where currently up to 25 people are allowed without household restrictions.

“We don’t have a lot of those large places of gathering that can accommodate that many people anyway,” Long said of the 175-person maximum. “So, it’s a place where we could move backwards, without causing undue hardship on anybody.”

While there is some increase in community spread (unknown source of infection), many of the latest cases are related to workplace spread and spread within family units, Long said.

Ultimately, “It comes down to behavior, and what people are willing to do to get our numbers back down,” she said.

County commissioners were supportive of the voluntary rollback, and said they would oppose any efforts by state health officials to move the county to the more restrictive Level 3 (orange).

“This commissioner is not going to stand for going back to orange,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said, saying the economic impact would be too great to roll back to the higher-risk level of protections.

Jankovsky said he doesn’t see adoption of the Level 2 restrictions as being too much different than what’s in place, other than the stricter limits on personal gatherings.

“I don’t want to go to orange. That’s hurting our economy, andhurting our businesses,” he said.

Commissioner Mike Samson emphasized the importance of remaining vigilant and recognizing that disease spread is a concern, and can have consequences.

“It’s about personal responsibility,” Samson said. “Don’t do foolish things, use common sense, don’t be crowded in a small room with people … just using common sense and common respect for one another goes a long ways.”

jstroud@postindependent.com

Doctor’s Tip: Food and fertility

Neal Barnard, M.D., is president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and a well-known and highly respected medical researcher. Earlier this year he published his fifteenth book: “Your Body in Balance, The New Science of Food, Hormones, and Health.” The first chapter is about infertility, a problem for 15 percent of couples who want children.

There are many causes of infertility, but hormone imbalance is a primary one. Studies show that infertility is lowest in women on the slim side, with a BMI of 18-22. The reason overweight women are more apt to be infertile is that fat cells manufacture estrogen as well as androgens (male hormones), resulting in hormone imbalances that affect fertility. Another reason fat reduces fertility is that it reduces the level of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) in the bloodstream, which allows sex hormones to be overly active— another cause of hormone imbalance/infertility. (Dr. Barnard uses the following analogy to explain SHBG: Think of SHBG as a fleet of microscopic aircraft carriers and estrogens as fighter planes. As long as the “planes” stay on the “carrier,” they remain inactive, but overweight women have fewer carriers).

Fiber — present in plants but not animal product — removes excess estrogen via the GI tract. In one study, fiber reduced estrogen levels by 10-20 percent, resulting in better hormone balance.

Dairy products affect fertility in two ways: First, dairy cows are artificially inseminated and are milked during their nine-month pregnancies. Levels of estrogens are higher during pregnancy, and these bovine estrogens get into their milk, and into humans who drink the milk. Secondly, the milk sugar lactose breaks down into glucose and galactose, and the latter can be harmful to human ovaries.

As a side note it should be mentioned that women who regularly exercise vigorously have better fertility, although extreme exercise contributes to hormone imbalance and infertility.

For centuries, women were blamed for infertility, but now we know that males are responsible for 1/3 of cases of infertility, females for 1/3, and in 1/3 of cases both partners are responsible. According to Dr. Barnard, men who eat lots of cheese and other fatty dairy products have lower sperm counts and more abnormal sperm. Processed meat intake causes the same problems. One reason for this is that eating at the top of the food chain (animal products) results in greater intake of environmental toxins versus eating plants at the bottom of the food chain, and that these toxins contribute to male fertility.

In summary, here are Dr. Barnard’s “foods for fertility”: 1) Trim excess body fat, “a source of unwanted hormones.” 2) Keep hormonal overactivity in check through SHBG. 3) Eat lots of fiber to eliminate excess hormones via the GI track. 4) Avoid dairy products.

Greg Feinsinger, M.D., is a retired family physician with a special interest in heart disease and diabetes prevention and reversal, ideally though lifestyle changes. He’s available for free, one-hour consultations — call 379-5718.

Additional students at Rifle High to transition to online school after new COVID-19 cases confirmed

The Garfield Re-2 School District announced Sunday night that another 43 students and teachers at Rifle High School will transition to online instruction based on new coronavirus cases and possible exposture.

The new quarantine comes after a Saturday advisory that 81 students and nine teachers at three Rifle schools, including the high school, were moved to online instruction due to separate COVID-19 cases and individuals experiencing symptoms.

Impacted students and educators are being asked to make the transition to online instruction and to quarantine for 14-days from the date of exposure, according to a news release.

Contract to manage Garfield County’s promotoras public health efforts for Spanish speakers being scrutinized by commissioners

UPDATE: This discussion was postponed from the Monday Board of County Commissioners meeting until the next regularly scheduled BOCC meeting on Monday, Nov. 9.


A contract to carry out a Garfield County Public Health project aimed at delivering information around coronavirus disease spread and precautions to area Spanish speakers is under the political microscope.

Last week, county commissioners were asked to approve a sole-source contract for the nonprofit Trailhead Institute to administer the county’s Promotoras Project.

The project would use $40,000 of a $50,000 state pass-through planning grant to help the county move toward the least-restrictive Protect Our Neighbors level regarding business openings and gathering sizes.

However, the item was tabled to a special Board of County Commissioners meeting Monday (and further postponed until Nov. 9) after questions were raised about political motives and a provision that would allow for undocumented individuals to be paid for their field work.

“I want to know who the players are in Trailhead Institute, and I want to make sure there’s not a political agenda involved,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said in asking that the item be pulled from the board’s Oct. 19 consent agenda.

Jankovsky also questioned a provision whereby Public Health could use undocumented individuals to work directly with the Hispanic community to disseminate information, and to be paid for that work using the grant dollars.

Garfield County Public Health Director Yvonne Long explained that Trailhead is not a political organization, but works closely with the state and county public health agencies to administer certain initiatives.

Long did acknowledge when Jankovsky pointed it out that some of the money would go to pay people who may not be documented.

“A lot of the work to develop this program has already been done, but no one is in the field doing the work yet until we knew we could pay them,” she said.

It’s a model that has worked in other communities, Long said, because there’s a better level of trust when someone from the community is sharing information about how to prevent disease spread and why it’s important to follow certain protocols.

That’s especially important in areas with large Hispanic communities. In Garfield County, where about 30% of the population is Hispanic/Latino, about 67% of the COVID-19 cases confirmed to date are within that particular demographic.

Long said there is a lot of misinformation and confusion about the coronavirus, especially in the Hispanic community.

“That’s why we use people who are bilingual and bicultural,” she said.

The Promotoras Program is aimed at getting information about the disease, how to prevent it, and how to keep it from spreading in the community, to people in a more direct way.

Training materials have been developed, and the county has lined up six promotoras to disseminate the information in Spanish in each of the county’s six towns and cities, Mason Hohstadt, public health specialist with the county, said.

“This was developed by people in our county who are from the Spanish-speaking community,” he said. “When these individuals go out, they are in the community where they came from.”

Hohstadt and others from the Public Health Department are slated to further explain the program, after a weekly COVID-19 update at Monday’s special, off-week meeting.

“They (Trailhead) are offering us the opportunity to pay people who have difficulties being paid within normal pay structures,” Hohstadt said.

One speaker at last week’s meeting when the subject came up was Western Garfield County Chamber of Commerce Director Tanya Doose. She said the chamber could be considered as an option to Trailhead

“I would encourage you to take a step back on this,” Doose advised the commissioners, adding she believes there are documented immigrants within the community who would be willing to do the work.

jstroud@postindependent.com

Carbondale’s CRES transitions two classrooms to distance learning following first week of in-person return

Crystal River Elementary School in Carbondale has transitioned 30 students and staff members in two classes to distance learning in the past four days because of confirmed cases of COVID-19.

According to a district news release sent Sunday evening, the students and staff members will quarantine for 14 days, per public health protocols.

In addition, all three classrooms in CRES’s preschool program are being closed until further notice because of a staff shortage due to COVID-like illness, according to the release. 

“We understand this closure puts families in a difficult situation, and we apologize for the inconvenience,” Early Childhood Director Cindy Gray said in the release. 

The district’s first quarantine situation due to the coronavirus comes a week after students in kindergarten through third grade returned to in-person classes on Oct. 19. Prior to that, all students in the district have been doing online schooling since late August due to coronavirus concerns.

Under the district return plan, grades 4-8 are slated to resume in-person classes on Monday, and high schools are to return on Nov. 4.

District officials first became aware of the need to send some students and staff into quarantine late last week.

However, the district only communicates broadly about Covid cases when there are 30 or more individuals impacted. That’s due to student and staff confidentiality, Roaring Fork Schools Public Information Officer Kelsy Been said in the release.

“When fewer students and staff are impacted, schools communicate directly with those who may have been exposed,” she said.

A general press release, which can aid in contact tracing when larger groups are involved, is not sent in cases where the numbers are low. Garfield Re-2 and other school districts follow a similar policy. 

“We understand that everyone is anxious to know when there is Covid in our schools, and we want our community to be aware of any spread of Covid — it’s in all of our best interests,” Superintendent Rob Stein said in the release. “However, when only a small number of students or staff are impacted, it’s easy to determine who the impacted individuals are, and we have to protect student and staff privacy.”

In the meantime, the Roaring Fork Schools are working closely with Public Health on contact tracing and have contacted all students and staff who have been exposed to Covid. 

jstroud@postindependent.com

Students, teachers at three Rifle schools latest to be sent to quarantine after positive COVID cases

The Garfield Re-2 School District has transitioned 81 students and nine educators at three Rifle schools to online instruction while in quarantine for 14 days, due to confirmed cases of COVID-19 and individuals experiencing symptoms.

The impacted schools are Rifle High School and Highland and Wamsley Elementary schools, the district said in a late Saturday news release..

“Garfield Re-2 was made aware of two separate situations that led to the quarantines,” according to the release. “The cases are not related.”

The district and building administrators are working with Garfield County Public Health on follow-up investigation and contact tracing. In the meantime:

  • Individuals diagnosed are being kept home from school until they are no longer infectious.
  • Activities when those individuals could have spread COVID-19 have been assessed.
  • The people who were close contacts of the person with COVID-19 have been instructed to stay home from school for 14 days (quarantine) after the exposure.

“Any child that was in at least one class or group as the person diagnosed with COVID-19, must follow quarantine instructions and stay home from school for 14 days from the date of exposure,” the district said in the release.

Impacted students will switch to online instruction beginning Monday, and will not be allowed back to school until their quarantine period completes, according to the release.

“Custodial staff has cleaned and disinfected the schools and they are prepared for the return of non-impacted students and staff.”

What to do if your child shows COVID-19 symptoms

Anyone who develops symptoms consistent with COVID-19 — including fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea — should:

  • Isolate until you/your child have had no fever for at least 24 hours (without the use of medicine that reduces fevers) and other symptoms have improved.
  • Wait until at least 10 days have passed since you/your child were tested or your symptoms first appeared. A limited number of persons with severe illness may require an extended duration of isolation up to 20 days after symptoms first appear. (https://covid19.colorado.gov/how-to-isolate)
  • Have your child tested.
  • Continue to keep your child home from school and avoid other activities around other people.
  • Notify the school.
  • Seek medical care and testing for COVID-19, calling your doctor before you show up.

Questions can be directed to Garfield County Public Health 970-945-6614, or in Rifle at 970-625-5200.

Source: Garfield Re-2 School District

Colorado limits more gatherings as COVID cases spike

DENVER (AP) — Citing a steady increase in Colorado’s coronavirus hospitalization caseload, state health officials announced new limits Friday on personal gatherings of people from different households in more than two dozen counties.

An amended state health order affecting 29 of the state’s counties limits personal gatherings to 10 people from no more than two households. Gatherings of up to 25 people were previously permitted in those counties, Colorado Public Radio reported.

Personal gatherings in 30 other Colorado counties, including Garfield, Pitkin and Eagle, were already restricted to 10 people. No new limits were imposed for five counties with lesser caseloads.

The Department of Public Health and Environment said it took the action after investigators determined that COVID-19 cases associated with social gatherings and community exposure had been more common since July.

“We need to keep gatherings smaller and with people from fewer households — we are asking everyone to ‘shrink their bubble’ to reduce the spread,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, the department’s executive director.

On Tuesday, Gov. Jared Polis appealed to residents to help stem what he called an alarming acceleration of new cases and hospitalizations. Upward trends in new confirmed cases and hospitalizations could strain hospital intensive-care capacity in December, the Democratic governor said.

There are roughly 1,800 intensive-care beds statewide for all health emergencies. More than three-quarters of those beds were occupied for all reasons over the week leading up to Monday, the state health department said.

The state reported 458 virus hospitalizations Friday. Health officials reported there were nearly 20 positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents Friday, one of the highest, if not the highest, recorded rates of the pandemic.

More than 2,000 people have died of the virus in Colorado, which has reported more than 85,000 positive cases. The number of cases is probably higher because of a lack of testing and other reasons.

The coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

Protocols questioned as coronavirus outbreak at Garfield County Community Corrections center in Rifle grows to nine cases

A Garfield County Community Corrections client on Thursday criticized the facility’s handling of an outbreak of COVID-19 cases over the past week, as state health officials were on hand to further assess the situation.

The number of confirmed cases also increased to nine late Wednesday when another staff member tested positive. No new cases were reported Thursday, Garfield County Public Information Officer Renelle Lott said.

To date, the confirmed cases involve six clients and three staff members, she said.

“All three staff have been released to quarantine away from the facility, and all six clients have been either furloughed or transferred to parole for quarantine,” Lott said.

A Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment rapid response team was on-site Thursday and completed testing on all remaining staff and current clients. The collected samples will be tested at the state lab, Lott said.

Meanwhile, Aaron Braatz, a client in the Rifle-based criminal justice facility, said the outbreak is not surprising given what he claimed have been weak safety protocols within the residential work-release program.

Last Saturday, Braatz said he was among 10 people on the facility’s transport van in the south Rifle area when he learned that one of the passengers was symptomatic and was being taken to Grand River Health to be tested.

He said he began questioning staff when he returned to the facility why other passengers would be allowed on the van if they knew someone was symptomatic and en route to be tested.

“No one even bothered to make me aware, or give me a choice to take the van, or not,” Braatz said. “I would have walked back to the facility if I’d known.”

Even within the facility on Sunday and Monday, after he said it was known that there was at least one confirmed case, it was business as usual during a community dinner.

Braatz said there was little attempt to prevent people from touching the same food items and utensils in the grab-and-go style community meal. Throughout the facility, he said there was little effort to keep people separated, and that the clients were still responsible for cleaning common areas, rather than a professional cleaning crew being brought in.

Braatz’s first COVID test taken earlier this week came back negative, and that he was tested again when the rapid response team came in Thursday. He said several residents have been sent home to quarantine, or to isolate if they tested positive, but that about a dozen male and female clients remain in the facility.

Garfield County Criminal Justice Services Administrator Rodney Hollandsworth said via an email response from Lott that ample safety precautions were and are being practiced.

“The facility had an established cleaning structure in place before COVID-19 occurred and strengthened it with the risk of COVID-19,” Lott said in the statement to the Post Independent. “Surfaces were and are cleaned and sanitized daily, including with supervision and oversight of these operations.”

Lott noted in an email to the Post Independent that clients of the Garfield County Criminal Justice facility are in the oversight of the courts.

“Upon entry to the community corrections facility they are notified that at any time they may initiate a complaint through the grievance process provided,” she said in response to Braatz’s claims.

The internal grievance process involves at least two levels of review, in which clients are requested to make a complaint verbally to a staff person first.

“If they feel the outcome does not meet their concern, they may initiate a formal written grievance that will be reviewed at the director level. This allows review by more than one staff member,” she said. 

Hollandsworth said Thursday that no such grievance has been filed.

Back in March of this year, when the COVID outbreak first showed up in Colorado, sanitizing at the facility was increased to include making sanitizing wipes available for commonly touched surfaces, such as doorknobs, in restrooms and in common areas.

“As a result of the first positive test over the weekend, all cleaning supplies were provided in the common areas for both the male and female areas inside the living facility,” she said. “Clients had access to supplies 24 hours a day over the weekend and are continuing to have this.”

As for the transport vehicles, “sanitizing is done for both of the vehicles and surfaces in which people have routine contact.”

County corrections officials were notified Tuesday of four positive COVID cases at the facility. Notifications of positive test results for three additional cases were received later Tuesday and another on Wednesday, according to a Wednesday news release.

A quarantine remains in place for all individuals who were in the facility and may have been exposed.

The community corrections program is designed as a transitional program to prepare clients convicted of crimes to live independently after incarceration. Many of the clients work outside of the facility and are closely supervised when they return.

Personal responsibility is a big part of that arrangement, the county’s news release went on to state.

“Frequent and routine cleaning is a part of the requirements of clients to meet the standards of preparing to live on their own after their release,” the release stated.

Facility staff has also increased cleaning protocols to include cleaning after every single use of the restrooms, and after any use of the common areas, according to the release.

Staff also regularly wear protective masks, and clients are “encouraged” to do so, the release states.

Lott said Garfield County Public Health staff began working on contact investigations in the correctional facility over the weekend. However, the matter did not come up during the weekly Public Health update to county commissioners on Monday.

“The department was awaiting test results early this week to identify and determine whether or not there was a COVID outbreak in the facility,” Lott said.

jstroud@postindependent.com

In Garfield County’s season of the pandemic, crowds — not witches — seen as spooky

At first, some of the neighbors of Old Town in River Valley Ranch wondered what they could do to keep Halloween safe instead of turning off the porch lights. Maybe they could toss candy at the kids? Maybe set out bowls? Maybe even have a slide in the front yard where they could send candy down the chute? They exchanged ideas and thoughts, sometimes coated with emotion, like chocolate over a peanut bar, on a Facebook page. 

Halloween is a big deal anyway, but in the Carbondale neighborhood, it’s a Super Bowl-sized event, with more than 2,000 kids swooping through their streets. Even in our season of the pandemic, it seemed crazy to shut down trick-or-treating.

“There was a lot of back and forth,” said Sarah-Jane Johnson, a homeowner in the neighborhood. 

But then neighbors became spooked about a rising number of cases, to the point where health officials are calling it a nationwide second wave, and worried about ruining the chances of their schools reopening in the next couple of weeks. Upon hearing the news that Aspen’s most popular neighborhood will close on Halloween, the consensus was River Valley should probably do it as well. The porch lights, as it turns out, will go off. Neighbors even released an official statement:

“Our neighborhood, which has a tradition of being the happening place for enjoying Trick or Treating and Halloween festivities in Carbondale each year, instead asks the community to respect our space by not coming into Old Town in River Valley Ranch,” the statement read in part. 

Carbondale, like many Colorado towns across Garfield County (and really all over the state) are discouraging trick or treating this year while attempting to offer fun alternatives. Johnson calls it “the right thing to do,” as she’s part of the Carbondale Emergency Task Force, a volunteer organization led by residents to help the town figure out all the tricky dilemmas caused by COVID-19 this year. The task force also recommended parents to do something other than trick-or-treat. Carbondale’s mayor, Dan Richardson, agrees, saying parents should take “a different approach to Halloween this year.”

“Naturally, children are likely to have a hard time remembering to wash their hands, keep their masks on, and practice social distancing when they are excited about Halloween candy,” Richardson said, “so we strongly urge parents and the community to consider doing it differently.”

Perhaps as a carrot — or maybe a chocolate bar — the Carbondale Police Department will act as a de facto candy distributor. Officers usually hand out glow sticks to kids on Halloween. This year it’s goodie bags. The first 2,000 kids 13 and younger who request one either by social media or calling the police department during business hours (970-963-2662) will get a bag.

The Garfield County Library Carbondale branch will also offer a chance to carve a pumpkin on the back patio from Oct. 27-29. Between 5-7 p.m. on Oct. 30, you can vote for the best pumpkin at the library (patrons can take their pumpkin home if they don’t want to be famous), with the top three getting a prize. 

Glenwood Springs and Rifle are taking a similar approach, although the public health department isn’t forbidding trick-or-treating, just offering ways to enjoy it and remain safe, if that’s possible. 

Halloween isn’t canceled. It’s just quieter this year, as Amy Kimberly, executive director of Carbondale Arts, put it.

Carbondale

There may not be a more stark example of the way COVID-19 has stripped away our fun more than Carbondale’s Dia de los Muertos. 

The Day of the Dead on Nov. 1 is actually a lively celebration that honors loved ones who have passed on with dancing, music and a whole lot of fun. Carbondale developed a reputation as the place to be for the Dia in the last decade, even more than Halloween. When you ask Amy Kimberly about it this year, she just sighs. She is the Carbondale Arts executive director, and she was in charge of coordinating everything. This year, that was an easier, albeit more painful, task. She couldn’t put together a procession of more than 200 dancers, singers and costumed community members. She can’t even allow people to gather at the altar to shout the names of their loved ones and have those names be echoed by the crowd because, well, there’s a crowd. 

She did try. She reached out to a ballet folklore dancing troupe but was turned down. 

“I get it,” said Kimberly, with the tone of a kid who’s been turned down by a busy parent too many times for a game of catch. “Nobody can take risks right now.

“It’s just difficult these days. We’re very sad. It was such a cross-cultural event for us.”

Kimberly does have a couple of ways to celebrate, even as she knows they’re muted in comparison to years past. The first is a community altar hosted by the Valley Settlement Project that will be created on Nov. 2 and run to Nov. 6 at The Launchpad, 76 South Fourth St. Those who celebrate build altars to honor their loved ones with symbols of their favorite foods, pastimes or clothing as well as pictures and the more traditional symbols such as flowers and sugar skulls. 

Kimberly hopes Carbondale residents create their own altars in their yards and let the Arts organization know, so maybe she can create a map for people to go around to see all of them, in the same way communities create maps of cool Christmas decorations. 

The second way to celebrate, scheduled for Nov. 6, will be a virtual First Friday and will feature the customs of the day, including instructions on how to paint your face in the calavera style and a look at how other communities are celebrating. That stream will be on the Thunder River Theatre Company’s website. 

“You will still get that feeling, I think,” she said. “But it will be a little quieter.”

Quieter is right, as other parties and events were canceled, many at the last minute, much like River Valley Ranch’s decision to shut down. KDNK Community Radio usually hosted what it called “an adult party,” with live music, costumes and goodies. This year the station considered offering a family-friendly, socially distanced event, maybe something like pumpkin carving, but after Garfield County’s public health department released guidelines on staying away from trick or treating, the station decided to cancel everything. 

“We decided it would be best to not even do a daytime event,” said Greg Albrecht, development director at the station, “both for safety in general as well as public perception. There’s no reason to push that.”

Rifle and New Castle

Rifle may be quiet this year, as City Manager Scott Hahn said he hadn’t heard of anything going on. But one place is attempting to pick up the slack. 

Columbine Ford will host a Trunk or Treat for the first time this year. This is a strange time to try to host a public event when you’ve never done one before, but that’s part of the point, said Bethany Duggan, business development manager for the car dealership. In fact, it will be the first in a series of holiday events the dealership will host through December. 

“We know everyone is struggling right now,” Duggan said, “and we just want to be there for them.”

The dealership has the space to do it, she said, with a giant parking lot to help everyone stay spread out. The event, from 4-6 p.m. Oct. 30, will allow kids to enter through the north, one way, and exit with candy and surprises at a few different stations. 

“I know people aren’t feeling safe about going door-to-door,” Duggan said, “and I know we have the ability to put in precautions with that giant parking lot. We want you to come and bring your kids down, have a good time and enjoy the holidays the best that we can.”

The New Castle branch of the Garfield libraries will offer Halloween fun at 1 p.m. on Halloween Day at the Town Hall/Library plaza. Costumes are encouraged.

Glenwood Springs

The phones were ringing at Garfield County Public Health this year even two months before Halloween. But since the health department released a detailed list of guidelines, they’ve been quieter, just like the holiday. 

“There are so many details, laws and regulations now that sometimes it’s confusing,” said Carrie Godes, the public information officer for the public health department. 

Those guidelines include strict adherences to trick-or-treating, including limiting the time at doorways, parents policing social distancing for their excited kids and wearing a mask, even under or over a costume, just as you sometimes have to wear a winter coat over it as well, Godes said. The recommendations also include avoiding crowds, and that one makes Godes cringe a bit. 

“We think we can do some trick-or-treating as long as we stick to those precautions we’ve been preaching for so long,” Godes said. “But we are concerned about people clogging up those doors. I know this personally: Even the most cautious kids forget about social distancing when they’re around a bowl of candy.”

Residents who have health concerns, or those spooked by the virus, shouldn’t feel bad about turning off their porch light, Godes said. This is the year to do that. Maybe they can hand out salted caramel apples or something special next year to make up for it. 

As a way to help families who don’t feel safe trick-or-treating, Glenwood Springs’ recreation department will offer a scavenger hunt, which are usually socially distanced anyway, and a Charlie Brown Great Pumpkin patch and a few haunted houses in the parking lot. All of these replace the big haunted house the recreation center usually puts on. The event will be scaled down from past years, said Pat Miller, recreation manager for Glenwood Springs, but it may feel larger, as the offerings will be spread out more. The event takes place from 1-5 p.m. on Halloween day. Register in advance for $5.

Miller and the city will also drop off pumpkins and 250 pieces of candy to downtown businesses that sign up for a week-long Halloween event that starts Oct. 26. Businesses can carve the pumpkin and hide it in their store, and patrons can take a photo of the pumpkin and tag it “#glenwoodrec for a chance at prizes.

Both events are designed to remove the sting of forgoing trick-or-treating if they have to this year. 

“The kids are still feeling like they are interacting and going around and getting candy, but obviously in a socially distanced way,” Miller said. “If we can help them feel back to normal even for a bit, we will consider that a win.”

Safer frights are available. The Glenwood Springs Historical Society will offer a virtual ghost walk this year as an alternative to the in-person fundraiser it offers every year, the society’s largest. That takes place at 7 p.m. Oct. 22 at www.glenwoodhistory.com/ghost-walk, and for a donation, you can watch ghosts walk the cemetery and talk about their connections with their underground neighbors. 

“It’ll be just like going, only you’ll get a neat experience with some special effects,” said Lisa Langer, the director of tourism promotion for Visit Glenwood Springs. Langer herself portrays Big Nose Kate, the common-law wife of Doc Holliday. She will stand in front of Holliday’s grave and talk about their relationship. Versatile Productions and the True Media Foundation put together the presentation.

Maybe she was just searching for any way to enjoy the holiday, but Langer noticed that a lot of people did decorate their homes this year. 

“I decorated mine too,” she said.