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Pitkin County reinforces mandatory indoor masking due to high transmission

Businesses can apply next month for an exemption if they have a vaccination policy in place.

ASPEN, Colo. — Summer is nearing its end, and Pitkin County is beginning to cool off, but COVID-19 is starting to heat up in the county.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Pitkin County has a high level of transmission like much of the state.

Once Pitkin entered that level, their public health department conferred with hospitals to determine if they wanted to reinstate a mask mandate. Starting Thursday, masks are required for anyone over the age of 2 while inside public buildings.

"We know that masking is one of the best mitigating strategies that we have. We also know that vaccination is our number one,” said Pitkin County Public Health Director Jordana Sabella.

According to the CDC, nearly 97% of the county is vaccinated, but that hasn't eased the burden on the hospitals in the county.

"We've been monitoring our local hospital capacity all throughout this pandemic. And locally we only have a 25-bed critical access hospital,” Sabella said.

Sabella is talking about Aspen Valley Hospital, which hopes to continue caring for its local patients.  

"We've been hearing it's been increasingly difficult to transfer patients. So that has to play into our consideration of what is our local capacity as well,” Sabella said.

Once the county drops to low or moderate transmission for 21 days in a row, masks will be recommended instead of required.

Pitkin County officials say they are following Boulder's lead. Since Boulder County implemented its mask mandate, their seven-day rolling average has decreased, but they remain at a high level of transmission.

"From the beginning of the pandemic, we've been trying to protect our hospital capacity to be able to care for those with COVID as well as care for those with other needs who need to use those medical resources,” Sabella said.

If you plan to hit the slopes, no mask is necessary. But the Aspen Chamber Resort Association reminds visitors to follow the local guidelines so they can enjoy all Aspen has to offer.

For more on this story, visit aspentimes.com.

RELATED: Commissioners: Indoor mask mandate would not be enforceable

RELATED: Erie adopts Boulder County's mask mandate

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