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Roaring Fork Schools providing grab-and-go meals for all children during school closure

The Roaring Fork Schools will join Garfield Re-2 in providing free meals to all children during the ongoing school closure, beginning Monday, March 30 through the current mandated schools closure of April 17.

According to a Roaring Fork School District news release, all children 18 years of age and under will receive one breakfast and one lunch per day, regardless of where the child attends school.

“This program is not just for low-income households. it is for all children — no qualifications are required,” according to the release. 

“In recent weeks we have seen the shelves of our grocery stores empty. We know the need for food is great,” RFSD Food Services Director Michelle Hammond said in the release. “The Nutrition Service team is anxious to meet this basic need for the children of our community.”

Children do not have to be present to receive a meal; parents and guardians can pick up meals for their children.

Meals will be provided at 10 a.m. on weekdays in designated locations in each community, including specific school sites — Glenwood Springs Elementary School, Crystal River Elementary in Carbondale and Basalt Elementary — and at certain school bus route stops on a rolling schedule.

The locations and times are listed on the district website here. The meal delivery schedule may change in response to program participation and need, and any changes will be communicated immediately, according to the release.

“After each day, we are hoping to learn how we can continue to make this program better,” Jeff Gatlin, Chief Operating Officer for the district, said. “Whether it is the quantity of meals or the locations identified, our goal is to adjust as needed to ensure we are meeting the needs of our families and communities.”

Garfield Re-2 Schools began distributing pre-packaged meals on March 16, the first day of the state-ordered school closures. Any child 18 and under can get a free breakfast from 8 – 8:30 a.m. at any one of the following locations:

Rifle — Davidson Park, Cottonwood Park, Joyce Park, Centennial Park; Silt — Heron’s Nest RV Park; New Castle — Burning Mountain Park or Apple Tree Park. Lunches are available at the same locations from 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.

The programs were made possible because the Colorado Department of Education received a waiver from the USDA that allows schools to offer an emergency feeding program that does not require meals to be provided in a group setting during the unanticipated school closure due to COVID-19. 

“Nutrition Service staff have been identified as essential employees and they have generously accepted this responsibility,” Hammond said. “I am sincerely grateful to each staff member for their selfless commitment ensuring meals will be provided.”

Las escuelas Roaring Fork ofrecen servicio de comida para llevar a todos los niños durante el cierre escolar. 

Las escuelas Roaring Fork proporcionarán comidas gratuitas y nutritivas a todos los niños durante el próximo cierre escolar que comenzará el lunes 30 de marzo hasta el viernes 17 de abril.

Todos los niños menores de 18 años recibirán un desayuno y un almuerzo por día, independientemente de donde el niño asista a la escuela. Este programa no es sólo para los hogares de bajos ingresos: es para todos los niños – No es necesario calificar para este servicio. 

“En las últimas semanas hemos visto vacías las estanterías de nuestras tiendas de comestibles. Sabemos que la necesidad de comida es grande”, dijo la Directora de Servicios de Alimentos Michelle Hammond. “El equipo del Servicio de Nutrición está ansioso por satisfacer esta necesidad básica para los niños de nuestra comunidad.”

Los niños no tienen que estar presentes para recibir su comida; los padres y guardianes pueden recoger las comidas para sus hijos. Las comidas se proporcionarán de lunes a viernes en lugares designados en cada comunidad, incluyendo escuelas específicas y paradas en las rutas de autobús. Los lugares y las horas están detallados en la página web del distrito aquí. Este horario de entrega de comidas puede cambiar en respuesta a la participación y necesidad del programa. Cualquier cambio será comunicado inmediatamente. 

“Después de cada día, esperamos aprender cómo podemos seguir mejorando este programa,” dijo el director de operaciones Jeff Gatlin. “Ya sea que se trate de la cantidad de comidas o de los lugares identificados, nuestro objetivo es ajustar según sea necesario para asegurarnos de que estamos satisfaciendo las necesidades de nuestras familias y comunidades”.

Este programa es posible gracias a que el Departamento de Educación de Colorado recibió una exención del USDA que permite a las escuelas ofrecer un programa de alimentación de emergencia que no requiere que las comidas se proporcionen en un entorno de grupo durante el cierre imprevisto de la escuela debido a COVID-19. 

“El personal del Servicio de Nutrición ha sido identificado como empleados esenciales y han aceptado generosamente esta responsabilidad”, dijo Hammond. “Estoy sinceramente agradecido a cada miembro del personal por su generoso compromiso de asegurar que las comidas sean distribuidas.”

Marble quarry operators violated Clean Water Act, Army Corps of Engineers finds

MARBLE — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has determined that the operators of a local marble quarry violated the Clean Water Act when they diverted a tributary of the Crystal River to make way for a mining road.

In the fall of 2018, Colorado Stone Quarries, which operates the famed Yule Quarry just outside the town of Marble, diverted Yule Creek from its natural channel — located on the west side of Franklin Ridge, a rock outcropping — to the east side of the ridge. Operators piled the original streambed with fill material, including marble blocks.

Although this move probably spared Yule Creek the impacts of a diesel spill last October, it was done without the proper permits or oversight, according to the Army Corps.

Under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, a project requires a permit from the Army Corps if it includes the discharge of dredged or fill materials into waters such as rivers, streams and wetlands. CSQ did not obtain a permit for the project because company officials thought the work was exempt, citing the temporary nature of the access road and creek diversion.

Army Corps officials disagreed.

“The work performed does not qualify for an exemption,” states a March 5 letter from Army Corps Colorado West Section chief Susan Nall, as the work “is being utilized for purposes other than moving mining equipment (e.g., hauling mined marble, accessing other portions of the mine, fuel staging area, and performing spill cleanup and monitoring activities) as required by the applicable exemption.”

Nall’s letter then declares: “Therefore, the work is a violation of the Clean Water Act.”

In order to remedy the situation, the Army Corps wants Yule Creek returned to its original alignment.

“Our preference is always to preserve the physical waterway if possible,” Nall said.

CSQ is considering a few different alignments for Yule Creek.

“The current alignment does accomplish the goal of creating separation between the creek and mining activities, which benefits the watershed,” CSQ general manager Daniele Treves said in a prepared statement.

The company plans to apply for an “individual permit,” which will require a 30-day public notice, public review and comments. The final decision on the Yule Creek alignment rests with the Army Corps.

The diversion of Yule Creek came to the attention of Army Corps staff after October’s diesel spill, which released roughly 5,500 gallons of fuel from storage tanks onto the ground.

Although CSQ notified the Army Corps in 2018 that it was planning to divert about 1,500 feet of the creek, the company didn’t follow the proper procedure, and the Army Corps didn’t realize the scope of the work it was planning, according to Nall.

“We did not realize it was a formal request for concurrence of an exemption,” Nall said. “That might have been an error on our part. … We didn’t object, and they took it as a concurrence. Nothing is exempt until we say it is. They really should have obtained it from us in writing.”

DRMS penalty

On Wednesday, the board of the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety levied a $18,600 penalty for the October spill. The accident resulted in the quarry’s violation of three state statutes: unauthorized release of pollutants into groundwater, failure to minimize disturbance to water quality and failure to comply with the conditions of the permit.

DRMS determined that last September’s relocation of generators and the diesel-fuel tanks that supplied them was not approved and was a violation of CSQ’s permit. The diesel tanks were not put in secondary containment structures.

CSQ has agreed to pay the fine.

“We are always more interested in gaining compliance than the monetary aspect of it,” said Russell Means, minerals program director for DRMS.

According to an agreement between quarry operators and state regulators, CSQ will also continue to clean up the site, including bioremediation treatments to remove hydrocarbons from the soil and long-term water-quality monitoring.

Means and Nall said CSQ has been cooperative throughout the process.

“I think everybody’s interest is the same — we would all like to see the spill area cleaned up and the best thing for Yule Creek,” Nall said.

The quarry, now known as The Pride of America Mine, is owned by Italian company Red Graniti and employs about 30 to 40 people. According to CSQ, there are enough marble reserves contained in its six galleries to continue mining at the current rate for more than 100 years.

Aspen Journalism collaborates with The Aspen Times and other Swift Communications newspapers on coverage of water and rivers. For more, go to aspenjournalism.org.

Doctor’s Tip: An immune-boosting grocery shopping list

This is another column in a series about your body’s five defense mechanisms: immune system; angiogenesis (formation of new blood vessels); regeneration (stem cells); microbiome; and DNA protection.

In these days of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important not only to do your best to avoid the virus, but also to have an optimal immune system — which helps prevent infection, but also helps you fight it off if you are infected. Furthermore, an optimal immune system also helps prevent cancer, by destroying cancer cells as soon as they appear.

Eating the right foods boosts your immunity — particularly plants that are intensely flavored (herbs and spices) and/or intensely colored. These plant foods are loaded with antioxidants and other immune-boosting micronutrients. Following is a shopping list to help you make food choices that will boost your immunity and thereby directly decrease your chances of acquiring COVID-19 and particularly of dying from it. Eating these foods will also indirectly decrease your risk of severe COVID-19 illness by preventing, treating and in many cases reversing the chronic diseases associated with increased COVID risk: hypertension, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.


• We tell people to eat the colors of the rainbow. Examples are green leafy vegetables of any kind (such as spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, chard, arugula), red cabbage, red onions, peppers, beets, carrots, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and eggplant.

• Cruciferous vegetables include cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts, bok choy, radishes, arugula, water cress, mustard greens, collard greens and turnip greens. They are very healthful and contain a strong cancer-fighting substance that is destroyed by cooking. (So include some raw cruciferous vegetables in your salads or before eating cooked ones).

• Legumes: beans, lentils, chick peas and split peas.

• Allium family of vegetables, which includes onions, garlic, shallots, leaks and chives.


They are a fungus rather than a vegetable, and the “intense color and/or flavor rule” doesn’t apply. Eating them a few times a week boosts your immunity.


There are too many to mention here, but use them to add flavor to your meals. Turmeric, which is both intensely flavored and intensely colored, is the “king of health-promoting spices.” Adding black pepper to turmeric increases the effectiveness by 1,000 times.


Again, intense color is important: oranges, pink grapefruit, mangoes, papaya, watermelon, kiwi fruit, dark grapes, dark plums, berries. Bananas, while not unhealthy, are a white fruit, and overrated as a health food.


Intense color applies to grains as well, so the most healthful rice is black (“forbidden”) rice, next best red rice, followed by brown rice. Avoid white rice because it’s refined and has minimal nutrients. When buying grain-based foods such as tortillas, watch for added sodium and sugar (4 grams = 1 teaspoonful). Check the food label and make sure the total carb:fiber ratio is 5:1 or less (multiply the fiber number by 5, and if the result is same or greater than the number for total carbs, that product has lots of healthy fiber and whole grains). Dr. Fuhrman says “the whiter your bread, the sooner you’re dead.”


If you eat the aforementioned plant foods, you will be getting all the vitamins and minerals you need, the way we evolved to get them — through the food we eat. We did not evolve to get them in pill form, and doing so can actually cause problems including harming your immunity. There are two caveats however: 1) Vegans and older omnivores need to take 1,000 mcg. of B12 daily (B12 is made by bacteria in dirt, and with treated water and pre-washed produce, we don’t eat much dirt these days). 2) Most people are low in vitamin D3, and need to take a 2,000 unit supplement every day.


• Dr. Michael Greger’s book “How Not to Die” — the second half includes his daily dozen, foods we should be eating every day, why and how much.

• “Eat to Beat Disease, The New Science of How Your Body Can Heal Itself,” by William Li, M.D.

• “Super Immunity,” by Joel Fuhrman, M.D.

Summary: Do what you can to avoid COVID-19, but also eat to support your immune system.

Greg Feinsinger, M.D. is a retired family physician who has a nonprofit: Prevention and Treatment of Disease Through Nutrition. He gives a free presentation at 7 p.m. the first Monday of the month at the Third Street Center in Carbondale; is available by appointment for free consultations (379-5718); and conducts a shop-with-a-doc session at 10 a.m. the first Saturday of the month at Carbondale City Market.

Garfield County community members working to keep Spanish speakers informed during virus crisis

At one point during his Spanish-language radio show a couple of weeks ago — amid the latest flurry of state public health orders related to the coronavirus — it occurred to Axel Contreras that he needed to change up the way he was delivering information.

His KQSE La Nueva Mix radio signal broadcasts throughout Garfield, Eagle and Summit counties, and the questions were coming faster than he could field them or find the people to answer them.

What exactly people are being asked to do and how it relates to public health and their own health is hard enough for the general population to understand, given the pace of evolving orders and updates. 

But it can be particularly difficult for the Latino community, Contreras said Friday as he was preparing for his daily 2-6 p.m. show from his home studio in New Castle.

“I try to answer questions, and when I can’t answer something I search everywhere I can for those answers,” he said. 

With radio, it’s hard to know how many people are listening, so he decided to try something new. 

In the middle of his radio show, he simultaneously started doing a Facebook Live newscast to further share the latest information and encourage more interaction, not only from people with questions, but from the experts who might have the answers.

“I had more than 800 people connected on the first session, and when I finished the broadcast 10,000 people had viewed it,” Contreras said. “By the next day, it had 20,000 views.”

Over the course of that first week, his broadcasts had a quarter-million views.

“(Thursday), I had the lady who is in charge of Latino outreach in Eagle County explaining the stay-at-home order, and who can go to work and who can’t,” Contreras said.

The dual format can also more effectively help dispel rumors and misinformation, which he said is just as rampant in the Spanish-speaking community as in the general population.

And, for a culture that’s highly social, it became a way to explain the importance of social distancing during the public health emergency.

“It’s just another way to have a community gathering and say, ‘let’s talk,’” Contreras said. “If I don’t know the answer, I search for the right people to find the answer.”

Other media resources for the area Spanish-speaking population have also been providing up-to-date information, including Entravision Communications’ Radio La Tricolor Aspen. The station has been focused on sifting through the state, local and federal aid programs and providing answers, Vice President Samuel Bernal-Urbina told the Aspen Times.

Bernal and others also created a Facebook public group called Coronavirus Aspen 2 Parachute Community Help to answer questions and serve as a clearinghouse for providing help to people in need. Most people are posting in Spanish but all posts can be translated.

El Montanés, a twice-monthly print publication that includes a mix of local, state and world news and locally relevant information, has also been focused on coronavirus news.

“We’ve been running stories about this since January, so we took it really seriously from the beginning,” Editor Veronica Whitney said. “It’s been our cover now for three weeks.”

Whitney said it has also been equally important to make sure her readers know about the 2020 Census. That information, and people’s participation in the Census, is even more important now, she said.

Much of the information coming from officials sources, including the county health departments and schools, is provided in Spanish in addition to English. 

Organizations such as the Valley Settlement Project and the Roaring Fork Schools Family Services have been staying in close contact with the families they serve to make sure they are informed and have the resources they need during a difficult time.

“Our work is certainly shifting, given the new crisis,” said Anna Cole, interim director for the schools-based Roaring Fork Family Services. “It was a little awkward because just as things started to escalate we went on spring break.”

Even so, each of the schools’ bilingual family liaisons worked to maintain contact with families during the past two weeks, she said.

Starting Monday, liaisons will resume regular wellness checks to make sure they know how to access resources for health and economic assistance.

“People are scared, and I imagine we will begin to see a lot of new families who are suddenly struggling,” Cole said of the economic fallout from the global pandemic and attempts to slow the spread of COVID-19 locally and statewide.

“It’s really important to get our contacts in place now, because the sense is we’re going to need those resources soon,” she said.

Part of the school district’s response will be to distribute breakfast and lunch meals five days a week to any school-aged student who needs them, starting on Monday in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt.

The Garfield Re-2 schools are also continuing meal distributions in Rifle, Silt and New Castle while schools remain closed due to the public health crisis.


Roaring Fork Valley’s Latino community faces coronavirus challenges

The uncertainty surrounding the new coronavirus is nerve-racking for everyone, but it’s magnified for “M,” a 62-year-old resident of El Jebel.

M is an undocumented immigrant and longtime local resident who is no longer able to work as a housekeeper because of back pain. She depends on help from her adult children, and particularly a daughter, to pay her rent and cover her other bills.

M, who didn’t want her name disclosed because of her legal status, is in the high-risk category for COVID-19 because of her age and diabetes. But dodging the virus isn’t her top concern.

“If they lose their jobs, I don’t know what I’ll do,” she said of her children. “If they don’t have jobs, I don’t have money to pay my rent and bills.”

Her daughter usually works full-time in housekeeping. Last week, she worked only three days after Colorado Gov. Jared Polis issued a statewide stay-at-home order. Pitkin County had previously passed its own version of a stricter health order. Despite the lack of work, her daughter took M to the grocery store to stock up.

M doubts that she qualifies for any economic aid because of her status. So it’s wait-and-see on how to pay her bills.

Meanwhile, she’s polishing her English skills. She hopes she can return to work eventually, possibly in an office, she said.

The Latino community in the Roaring Fork Valley has been hit particularly hard by the economic shutdown. Latino workers dominate in the restaurant, construction and lodging industries and, in many cases, their manual jobs cannot be performed at home.

“We’ve had lots of calls from people who have been laid off, not to mention folks who are undocumented,” said Mateo Lozano, mountain regional organizer for the Denver-based Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition. “The folks who are undocumented are in an even worse predicament. Many of them are unaware that there are workers’ comp rights that they can take advantage of.”

The coalition has focused over the past two weeks on getting information to immigration hubs and nonprofit organizations that regularly work with Latinos to share information about what aid is available and how to apply for it.

It’s a complicated topic, Lozano said. An immigrant who has legal residency but is working to attain citizenship cannot become what the federal government classifies as a public charge — someone collecting welfare benefits.

That concern discourages some people who are sick, possibly with the coronavirus, from seeking medical care or unemployment compensation.

“Totally, 100 percent,” Lozano said. “They’re afraid of being a public charge.”

With state and local aid already being offered to laid-off workers and now a federal stimulus package, there is aid available that doesn’t qualify someone as a public charge.

“A lot of people don’t know you can take advantage of unemployment benefits even if they are undocumented,” Lozano said.

Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition is trying to help people wade through the regulations and answer their questions, he said. Information can be found at http://coloradoimmigrant.org.

Glenwood Springs immigration attorney Jennifer Smith has witnessed how the chaotic developments this month have created a lot of uncertainty. Like Lozano, she is aware of people who fear seeking medical treatment and applying for unemployment compensation.

“There’s always a significant portion of our immigrant population that is so risk-adverse that they won’t apply, even if they qualify,” Smith said. “The worry is it’s going to be used against them.”

She said her law firm has experienced an increase in telephone calls from clients trying to figure out if they qualify for aid and how to get it.

“No one is really interested in their immigration case right now,” she said.

In the bigger picture of trying to figure out the coronavirus crisis and the economic fallout, Entravision Communications and its Spanish-language radio station in the Roaring Fork Valley, Radio Tricolor Aspen, is filling the void.

Vice president Samuel Bernal-Urbina said the station has been flooded with questions from listeners — first about the symptoms of coronavirus and what a person should do if they feel they have it, and more recently how people can feed their families and recoup some of their lost income.

He said it is difficult to gauge how hard the coronavirus has hit the valley’s Latino community. There have been numerous reports of people with symptoms.

“I know there have been cases, but there isn’t any data,” he said.

His and other Spanish-language radio stations have been focused lately on sifting through the state, local and federal aid programs and providing answers.

“It gets a little more complicated with our immigrant community,” he said.

One thing that has become clear, he said, is the Roaring Fork Valley is a caring community for people, regardless of their legal status. Aid programs abound. On the other hand, people are scared about how they will continue to provide for their families if stay-at-home orders persist for an extended time — a concern shared by everyone.

Bernal and others created a Facebook public group called Coronavirus Aspen 2 Parachute Community Help to answer questions and serve as a clearinghouse for providing help to people in need. Most people are posting in Spanish but all posts can be translated.

One person posted a map that showed the coronavirus cases in the U.S. as of March 9 and another with significantly more cases March 26.

“Terrifying. I’m scared,” posted one person.

Bernal posted a question Friday asking if anyone has tested positive for the coronavirus and if they would be willing to share their story on the radio news.

He said he was impressed by how people have used the forum to seek and provide help. One man recently got out of Garfield County Jail facing a world a whole lot different from when he went in, with stay-at-home orders and a lack of jobs. Several people offered to help get the man on his feet, first by paying for a hotel room, then by providing longer-term housing, according to Bernal.

Hazzell Chevez, who works as a woman, infant, child specialist and a family health coordinator for Eagle County Health and Environment, is among the people trying to provide accurate answers to questions on the Aspen 2 Parachute Facebook page.

“This community in the Roaring Fork Valley is very supportive, and it’s not hard to get help when one needs it,” she said.

Many people are trying to find help to pay their rent, so information released by Eagle County government was shared on the page, she said. People also want to know where they can get food to feed their families.

“People are concerned about getting help because so many people are not working,” Chevez said.

Chevez, who lives in the midvalley, is among the people working from home these days. Among her duties is calling to check in on women with infants and small children at home to make sure they are eating well and maintaining their health. She said she inquires about their health to see if they are experiencing any symptoms of the coronavirus, and she shares information on how to respond.

She also is balancing work with caring for her own 7-year-old son. She said she doesn’t have immediate family in the valley to help with child care.

“Sometimes it’s hard because he wants my attention,” she said. But overall, her son understands that she must work.

Her husband works as an assistant lab technician at a local hospital. He sleeps in a different bedroom at home as a precaution while coronavirus presents a threat.

Chevez said she is concerned that the virus could sweep through the Latino community because there are often so many people sharing residences.

Eagle County has “borrowed” a content marketing coordinator from an independent recreation staff in the Eagle Valley to help the public health department in its LatinX outreach efforts. That marketing expert, Eddie Campos, and Faviola Alderete of the public health department have been working with the Spanish-language radio stations in the Eagle and Roaring Fork valleys to provide regular updates on COVID-19-related topics.

Campos also contributes content to the One Valley Voice bilingual Facebook page.

Angelo Fernandez, deputy county manager, also is involved in the county’s outreach efforts.

“Eagle County has been working with a group of about 60 Latino leaders in the Eagle River and Roaring Fork Valleys to help coordinate and distribute urgent and emergent information and relevant stories related to COVID-19,” Fernandez said in a statement.

On the Aspen 2 Parachute Facebook page, there is a mix of posts that express frustration, fear and a sense of community in battling the coronavirus. One woman posted a picture of herself and other women taking a break from cleaning at Aspen Valley Hospital.

“We are housekeeping from Aspen hospital. Always positive and bless with God’s help,” her post says.


New Castle Town Council holds off on pay raise vote

The New Castle Town Council postponed voting on an ordinance that would give a pay raise to future town council members.

Currently, the town’s five councilors and mayor pro tem each earn $370 a month; the mayor earns $470 a month.

Ordinance 2020-4, which council ultimately tabled at its May 17 meeting, proposed paying the mayor $1,000, the mayor pro tem $750 and councilors $500 a month.

The town’s charter states that if council approves a pay increase, it can’t take effect “until a subsequent term, if any” for council members who voted on the ordinance.

“What we do in the ordinance is we name a date that is slightly beyond the second election cycle,” said David Reynolds, New Castle town administrator.

Subsequently, the pay increase would not have taken effect until May 1, 2022.

New Castle’s April town council election was canceled after current council members Grady Hazelton, Crystal Mariscal and Graham Riddile were the only candidates who filed to run for the three available seats.

Hazelton, Mariscal and Riddile were still eligible to vote for the pay increase because their subsequent term does not begin until late April.

Councilors, like Riddile, did not want to vote for a pay increase they knew they were guaranteed to receive as a result of April’s election having being canceled.

“Knowing the situation, as I see it now and what I believe the spirit of the code to be, I don’t want to vote for a raise, personally, knowing that I have an uncontested election,” Riddile said. “That just doesn’t sit right with me.”

Council members also favored postponing the vote to allow more residents the opportunity to comment on the ordinance, in person, should they chose to.

“We may want to table this conversation also until we have an environment that’s a little more inviting for the public to come in,” Riddile said.

The rest of council agreed to postpone any vote concerning the ordinance to a later date.

The New Castle Town Council meets twice a month and its members serve four-year terms.

The town also looked at how much neighboring municipalities paid their own, locally elected officials.

Silt’s mayor earns $600 and councilors $400 a month. Silt has a population of just over 3,000 residents.

The mayor of Glenwood Springs receives $1,200 and city councilors $1,000 a month.

Glenwood Springs has approximately 10,000 residents.


Garfield County reports first death of person with COVID-19

A woman in her 70s who tested positive for COVID-19 died Saturday, a news release from Garfield County Public Health reports.

The release states the woman “had other significant health conditions” and that the county “extends deep condolences to the family members of the woman for their loss.”

No other information about the woman was available Saturday.

County public health urged people to continue practicing social distancing and to stay at home to slow the spread of the coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19.

Garfield County’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 came March 14. As of Saturday, there were 23 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

The total number of positive cases is unlikely to represent how widespread COVID-19 is in Garfield County, as testing is being made available only for those who are critically ill in a high-risk group where diagnosis would benefit treatment.

Parachute police officer tests positive for COVID-19

A Parachute Police Department officer has tested positive for COVID-19, Town Manager Stuart McArthur said Wednesday, but the community’s other officers continue to serve the public.

The Parachute Police Department have gloves and N95 masks as personal protective equipment, McArthur said, and they continue to respond to calls.

“The town of Parachute is trying to inform the community as much as possible. We have closed town hall, requesting that everyone use the safe distancing and sheltering in place.

“We encourage people to be as safe as they possibly can. If they need something from the town, please call. We’re here to help,” McArthur said.

Most municipal services are temporarily closed or suspended, or staff is working remotely. Parachute’s public works staff are still working, as is the town manager and financial director.

“Right now, the only people who are working at the town are essential services,” McArthur said.

The positive test result for the Parachute officer was returned earlier this week. The officer who tested positive was not symptomatic when last on the force, McArthur said.

“My understanding from the police chief is that (the officer who tested positive) was not exhibiting any symptoms,” McArthur said.

If someone is not exhibiting symptoms, the risk of exposure to others is lower, county health officials explained.

“Regarding asymptomatic transmission, people are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest). Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads,” the Garfield County Public Health Department said in a statement.

Parachute police have not requested additional patrol officers from local law enforcement agencies, but that is an option through the mutual aid arrangement between local agencies, McArthur said.

Due to medical privacy laws, further information about the positive COVID-19 case was not available.

Garfield County has 16 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus as of Thursday afternoon, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The state health department is counting cases where patients with COVID-19 symptoms and contact with other confirmed cases as positive, even if there hasn’t been a formal test done by the state.


55-year-old man second reported death in Pitkin County related to COVID-19

A 55-year-old man confirmed Friday as Aspen’s second COVID-19-related death lay dead in his home for two days before he was found by police officers during a welfare check, an official said.

Pauli Laukkanen was found Tuesday and “had reported minimal symptoms of night sweats and fever several days before his death” but died Sunday, according to a news release from Pitkin County Coroner Steve Ayers. Confirmation that Laukkanen died of COVID-19 complications came Friday, the release states.

“(Laukkanen) was from Sweden but has lived in Aspen for many years,” according to the release.

A 94-year-old man who died at his Aspen home Tuesday was confirmed Thursday as Pitkin County’s first death related to the coronavirus. The man’s identity was still not available Friday pending notification of next of kin, Ayers said Friday afternoon.

Pitkin County officials are awaiting COVID-19 test results on one more recent death in the county, though they don’t believe it’s related to the virus, he said.

Through Thursday, Colorado public health officials reported 1,734 total cases in 42 of the state’s 64 counties, with 31 deaths and 239 people hospitalized, according to the agency’s website. Pitkin County had 25 positive COVID-19 cases as of Thursday, according to the state’s website.

Much of the county’s population — including Aspen — is under orders from the Pitkin County Public Health Department and Gov. Jared Polis to remain at home in an effort to control spread of the virus. Officials have asked visitors and second homeowners to return to their primary places of residence during the pandemic.

Along those lines, all short-term rental businesses, including hotels and lodges, were ordered to cease operations, to comply with local and state health orders requiring all persons to shelter in place and limit transmission of coronavirus in the community, according to a news release Friday from the city of Aspen.

The city forbade further bookings or occupancy of short-term rentals in Aspen until public health orders have been lifted, the release states.

Short-term rentals are classified as lodge and residential properties that are available for occupancy for a period less than 30 consecutive days.

The announcement includes hotels, motels, lodges, condo-hotels, bed and breakfasts, and any other lodging types as defined by the city. Privately-owned residential property within the city limits being used as a short-term rental, whether through an online booking service, local property manager, or any other means, and with or without a valid city vacation rental permit also was included.

Exemptions are limited to local residents using short-term rentals as a permanent residence, anyone in quarantine or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and self-isolating, or anyone able to demonstrate good cause for maintaining residence in a short-term rental to comply with public health orders.

Outdoor recreation during COVID-19: Forest Service limits some access, backcountry open

COVID-19 lockdown has touched every aspect of life in the Roaring Fork Valley, including the great outdoors.

While outdoor recreation is expressly allowed under Gov. Jared Polis’ stay-at-home order, there are still restrictions, and the White River National Forest is tightening access in some areas.

“Most backcountry access points and trails remain open,” the Forest Service said in a news release.

But the Forest Service will close developed recreational facilities like rental cabins, toilets and group sites through April 30, a Friday news release states.

The popular Hanging Lake trail is closed through at least April 11, and no permits are available for purchase until after that date.

The boat ramps at Grizzly Creek and Shoshone are currently open.

The Vail Pass Winter Recreation area is open from the Redcliff and Camp Hale access points, but the Interstate 70 parking lot is closed.

Backcountry trails are open, but that could change if authorities see violations of the social distancing orders.

“The Forest Service will be monitoring access points and adjusting management of these areas as appropriate to best meet social distancing direction and keep group sizes small. Safe and responsible use of our national forests will reduce impacts to local communities who may be at risk from the virus,” according to a Forest Service fact sheet.

Polis’ order, which took effect Thursday, tells all Coloradans to stay home for the next few weeks to limit the spread of the new coronavirus, unless someone is running necessary errands, working in an essential role, or going outside for exercise.

 “We want people to be able to get outside,” said Carrie Godes, spokeswoman for the Garfield County Public Health department.

Outdoor recreation is important, but further restrictions could be put in place if social distancing guidelines are not followed, Godes said.

“Right now it’s a privilege, and I would encourage people not to ruin that privilege. We want people to be healthy, to get outside, to breath clean air, to get physical exercise,” Godes said.

But locally, some activities and access to public lands has already been restricted.

“I think an example of that is Sunlight being closed, due to a number of factors, but some of those were social distancing complaints in the parking lot,” Godes said.

Godes also asked that people be careful in the backcountry since a medical emergency there would draw upon needed resources from local hospitals during the pandemic.

The governor’s order lists many activities as examples of allowable activities, such as “walking, hiking, nordic skiing, snowshoeing, biking or running.”

Those and other activities must assume social distancing, and some physical recreation should be avoided altogether under the governor’s order.

“I don’t know if there’s a way to practice social distancing in soccer that would be exempt,” Godes said.

Violation of the governor’s order could be punished by up to $1,000 in fines and up to 1 year in jail.

But local law enforcement would ask potential violators to voluntarily comply with the order first.

“The first step that they’re going to take is an educational approach, asking for compliance,” Godes said.

If the matter escalates, it could result in a cease and desist letter and eventually a citation.