Pitkin County ready to launch COVID-19 affidavit for Aspen area visitors

County will be first in Colorado to require visitors to arrive with negative COVID-19 test results

Carolyn Sackariason
Aspen Times
Jonah Delgado swabs the inside of his mouth while self-administering a COVID-19 test outside of City Hall in Aspen on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020. Delgado had no symptoms, but wanted to take the free test to be certain he was negative. Delgado said he had taken one other test previously, but had tested negative then. Delgado works at a restaurant and wanted to make sure he was safe for those around him. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

An affidavit requiring visitors to acknowledge they have come to the area with a negative COVID-19 test and understand the local public health orders is being prepared for mass distribution in Pitkin County so that lodges and businesses are prepared for its implementation on Dec. 14.

That’s according to county manager Jon Peacock, who gave a COVID update Tuesday to Aspen City Council and county commissioners during a joint meeting.

The goal between now and Dec. 14 is to make guests aware of the requirements before they arrive, which puts the burden on industry representatives and the government to communicate collaboratively.

“One of our challenges is Pitkin County is the only county in Colorado that will have these types of requirements,” Peacock said, “and so it’s going to take an extra push in partnership with all of our partners to make sure guests are aware of these requirements, hopefully before they come, but if not, at least after they get here.”

The affidavit will include confirmation that a visitor has had a negative test result within 72 hours of travel, or will quarantine upon arrival, either for 14 days, or until they obtain a negative test result at their cost in Pitkin County.

Visitors also will be asked to certify that they’ve been symptom free 10 days prior to travel, as well as any dependents traveling with them.

A visitor is anyone who is coming overnight from outside of Pitkin, Eagle or Garfield counties.

The Pitkin County’s IT department this week is building the web-based affidavit so it can be widely accessed prior to Dec. 14, and businesses and government start messaging to those who have booked to come here in the future.

Peacock said the affidavit will be available at local lodges and short-term rentals at check-in, as well as at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport.

“We’re also working with the airlines who have agreed to work with us to make sure that the affidavit requirement is part of their communications. … We are really trying a multi-channel approach,” Peacock said. “We’re really going for the voluntary compliance first, then what we’re talking about is, from a public health perspective, how we might do some spot checking … and just some random sampling to request test results and such.”

Officials recognized it may be difficult to enforce and will be relying on personal responsibility to follow COVID protocols. However, if someone does test positive in the county they will be put under an isolation order through the public health department, Peacock noted.

The point is to limit the risk of somebody coming to the area with the virus, but little can be done locally to control the rising cases in neighboring counties of Eagle and Garfield, where the majority of Aspen’s workforce lives.

“I think we have a really good system in place as best we can for our visitors, but frankly I think the elephant in the room and I’m just as concerned about is 30 miles down the road, where you got a county with county commissioners who seem to be ignoring the science in front of them and knowing that so much of our workforce is traveling up on RFTA or carpooling,” Pitkin County Commissioner George Newman said of Garfield County’s recent pushback to the state. “That’s an issue that we are exposing ourselves to because another county’s unwillingness to make these hard choices … that puts us at risk and our businesses at risk.”

Peacock responded that jurisdictions in Pitkin County may have to lobby for equal and equitable enforcement of COVID restrictions on restaurant capacity and other limitations, just like the mayors representing cities on the Front Range made a plea to Gov. Jared Polis regarding the same issue.

Meanwhile, Aspen and the surrounding area are on trajectory of rising cases that could put Pitkin County in level Red on the state’s COVID-19 dial, which would mean even further restrictions.

Currently, the state has Pitkin County on level Orange with some other self-imposed restrictions. Restaurants are limited to 25% capacity and retail at 50%. Last call at restaurants is 9:30 p.m. and a curfew of 10 p.m. at those establishments is in effect.

The state classifies each county on its color-coded COVID-19 Dial according to incidence rate, positivity rate and the number of hospitalizations. Any county that remains in the Red level on two or more of those metrics for 14 consecutive days is moved to the next level.

On Tuesday, the Pitkin County’s incidence rate, which is based on a population of 100,000, was at 709 for the past 14 days; 350 is considered the threshold for fewer restrictions.

Also, the county’s positivity rate is climbing. It was at 9.8% on Monday; 15% is what triggers the Red level.

Garfield County’s incidence rate was 983 on Monday, with a positivity rate of 12.6% and the number of hospitalizations also on level Red, according to Peacock.

There had only been one hospitalization at Aspen Valley Hospital due to COVID in the past 24 hours as of Tuesday’s case data report.

Cases continue to rise in Pitkin County, with the single highest daily number being 21 on Nov. 28. In the past 14 days, Pitkin County has recorded 126 cases.

“It’s really hard to see how we’re going to have 14 days with our numbers below 350 … prior to heading into Christmas to increase our capacity at restaurants back up to 50% for indoor capacity,” said Commissioner Kelly McNicholas Kury. “It’s hard to see a scenario where we move into Yellow, so for me that’s some real writing on the wall … these incidence numbers are really alarming.”

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