A look back on 2020: From first case to conflicting health orders, pandemic drove headlines for much of the year

Not one newspaper made it through this year without the COVID-19 pandemic dominating headlines. From first case to conflicting health orders, here’s a look back at some of the pandemic coverage from the Post Independent in 2020.

Garfield County reports first COVID-19 case

March 2020 will forever go down as one of the most galvanizing junctures in the history of Garfield County’s existence.

It would mark the first time someone in the area officially tested positive COVID-19.

According to Garfield County Public Health, on March 14 a woman made contact with tourists in Pitkin County who tested positive for COVID-19. The unnamed woman, 33, would later tell the Post Independent that she was at a bar in Aspen when she met several Australian tourists who tested presumptive positive for COVID-19.

A man and woman leave Glenwood Springs City Market during the first days of the COVID 19 outbreak in late March.

From there, the woman did not require hospitalization but quarantined at home.

At that point in Colorado, there were 102 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with one virus-related death.

Stay-at-home order

Just as March was coming to a close, Gov. Jared Polis made an announcement:. In an effort to curtail the spread of COVID-19, Polis issued a statewide stay-at-home order.

The extreme measure advised Colorado residents to not only stay put but to sparingly make trips to the grocery store or doctor’s visits.

The Starlight Lodge in Glenwood displays a sign of encouragement at the end of March during the first weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

At that point in Colorado, 1,086 people tested positive for COVID-19 while 19 died of COVID-19-related complications.

This prompted Polis to make a formal request for President Donald Trump to declare Colorado a major disaster area.

Polis would also go on to voice his support for a federal $2 trillion stimulus package.

Don’t bash the facemask

By the time COVID-19 disrupted life in Garfield County, people began asking themselves whether using a facemask would actually work to combat the virus’ spread.

In Glenwood Springs, city councilors passed in April what was very likely the first community mask order in all of Colorado, requiring them to be worn in spaces where social distancing was impossible as well as in the downtown core.

A downtown patron wearing a mask leaves Treadz after grabbing some provided hand sanitizer near the door.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

While some debated whether there should have been a similar countywide order passed, it became a moot point when Polis announced a statewide mask order in July.

Although they advised against wearing masks in the early stages of the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has maintained since the summer that community use of masks can help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Gov. Polis responds

Rising economic woes among local restaurant and bar owners over state orders barring establishments from serving in-person leads to a string of letters exchange between Garfield County and Gov. Jar Polis’ office.

In mid-May, the Garfield County commissioners sent Polis a formal request to allow a variance to hold up to 30% capacity in bars and restaurants rather than only serving the public through take-out orders and delivery.

At that point, the number of COVID-19 cases within Garfield County saw a drop, and Polis eventually told the county he’d take the proposed exemption under consideration.

Amid all this, Rifle restaurant owner and now Rep.-elect Lauren Boebert openly defied the state orders, opening for outdoor dining before any variance was in place. Shooter’s Grill served patrons in and outside of the establishment. Boebert continued doing so even after receiving a temporary cease and desist order.

Dial it up to level red

Nothing has perhaps been more confusing, more frustrating to many local leaders than how Garfield County has clashed with the state of Colorado over COVID-19 restrictions.

Throughout the course of 2020, and especially accentuated in December, the Garfield County Commission has been adamant about insulating local restaurants and other businesses from statewide restrictions that fully keep people eating inside their establishments.

A group of restaurant patrons take advantage of the outdoor seating area in Bethel Plaza while visiting Glenwood from Dallas.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Earlier in December, the commission opted to not voluntarily switch the county to “level red” COVID-19 restrictions. Of course, Gov. Jared Polis came out with a color dial that depicts the severity of COVID-19 cases in areas across the state.

To add fuel to the fire, the state is currently offering small businesses financial relief. In order to qualify for the legislature-approved business assistance program, however, those businesses need to operate at a level-red capacity.

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