Pitkin County Wants You To Visit — But Only If You’ve Recently Tested Negative For COVID-19

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Outdoor restaurant seating during the coronavirus pandemic in Aspen, Colorado, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2020.

There’s a new must-have item for your next weekend getaway in Aspen: a negative COVID-19 test result. 

Starting Monday, Pitkin will become the first Colorado county to require visitors to have tested negative 72 hours or less before their arrival. The new rule applies to people who don’t live in Pitkin, are 10 years of age and older, and who plan to stay at least one night.

People who arrive without proof of a negative test result will be directed to a local testing center and asked to quarantine until they receive the result. 

Tracy Trulove, a public information officer for the county’s COVID-19 response, said county officials have been looking for any measures they can put in place to help keep the local economy as open as possible. Last year’s busy ski season was cut short by a statewide ban on the sport, and many resort communities were hit hard by the virus. 

“So it felt like asking people to take this extra step to come into the county as healthy as possible was a step in the right direction,” Trulove said. 

And a “step” is all the county sees this as, Trulove added. It’s just one aspect of a larger coronavirus response in Pitkin that includes expanded in-county testing and health regulations that are often stricter than state requirements. Private gatherings in Pitkin County, for example, may only have up to five people — while the statewide maximum is 10. When visitors fill out an online affidavit saying they’ve had a recent negative COVID-19 test, they’ll also be presented with the county’s health regulations. 

These changes came after public health officials gathered input from the county’s COVID-19 task force, which is made up of representatives from local businesses and lodgings, as well as the Aspen Skiing Company, the company that runs all four local ski resorts.

The task force looked at models from states that have instituted a similar testing requirement, including Michigan, Massachusetts and Hawaii.

The business community has “really partnered with us,” Trulove said. She admitted that not all business owners may be happy about these new rules, “but for the most part the taskforce has been able to find some alignment with everyone that this impacts.”

The “trickiest part” of the new testing requirement is enforcing it, Trulove said. Visitors are asked to carry with them a paper copy of their negative test result or have a link available to present, but hotel workers will not have to enforce the rule.

A county public health team may do spot checks, she said, but “it’s a little bit of an honor system.” 

Trulove believes most people want to do the right thing, and she said that’s how this new requirement will make a difference. 

Pitkin County is asking people, “to kind of come into communion with the community, if you will,” she said, “recognizing that we want to keep people working, we want to keep businesses open. We want to see economic recovery.” 

Pitkin County now sits in the state’s “high risk” coronavirus category. If the county’s COVID-19 numbers worsen, the state could issue stricter health regulations, including shutting down indoor dining and banning personal gatherings altogether.