This week at Aspen Journalism, we published a collaborative investigation between our Data Desk Editor Laurine Lassalle and Aspen Public Radio’s Caroline Llanes that took a panoramic view of how COVID-19 has played out across a wide swath of our region.
Delivered in two parts, the first installment surveyed prevailing attitudes and responses across six Western Slope counties — Pitkin, Eagle, Garfield, Mesa, Delta and Gunnison — and recalled a defining time in the course of the coronavirus pandemic, which was when public health regulations became the purview of each individual county, as opposed to state health officials. Part two dove into the data from each county, with some interesting findings that relate to the nature of COVID in these different places. The findings stand to reason — that the tourism-dependent ski communities would see higher volumes of cases; also that counties with higher levels of vaccination suffered lower death rates. Multimedia purveyors of journalism that we are, you can both read and listen to the stories, with audio produced by Llanes embedded on our posts. Those posts also feature Lassalle’s interactive data visualizations and photos from Paonia-based photographer Luna Anna Archey helping to illustrate the package.
We’re proud of this series and the work it represents, and how our two outlets working together are uniquely positioned to bring you this kind of contextualized examination of community. I found it to deliver a powerful look back on the last two and a half years of our collective history, a reminder that we have been through something bigger than we sometimes realize in the regular day to day.
Also this week at Aspen Journalism, Water Desk Editor Heather Sackett looked into what’s up with reports of discolored water running down Lincoln Creek, a main tributary of the upper Roaring Fork and a lynchpin in the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Company’s transmountain water diversion system. While it’s not uncommon for century-old and now defunct mines above Grizzly Reservoir to discharge contaminated water into the stream, observers say recent levels are elevated, and seem to be escaping below the dam, and down to the mainstem of the Roaring Fork, with greater frequency. Multiple agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, sent representatives to the area on Tuesday to collect samples to better understand the issue.
And don’t miss our twice-weekly Tracking the Curve updates — case counts in our state and region are generally trending down these last few weeks — and the latest Data Dashboard post, which shares that summer 2022 hotel occupancy in Aspen and Snowmass is off of last year’s pace, along with our regular assortment of water, air quality, Lake Powell and temperature data points.
Thank you for reading, and supporting, Aspen Journalism.
– Curtis Wackerle
Editor and executive director
Challenges included dealing with a transient community, staffing issues and public angst
By Laurine Lassalle and Caroline Llanes/Aspen Public Radio | September 26, 2022
About two and a half years after the first COVID-19 case was reported in the United States and in Colorado, responses to the pandemic have varied widely across the state — and on the Western Slope.
Vaccines prove to be an essential tool to prevent COVID-19 deaths
By Laurine Lassalle and Caroline Llanes/Aspen Public Radio | September 27, 2022
The impacts of the pandemic have varied widely across the Western Slope, especially between mountain communities with higher infection rates but lower death rates and counties to the west, which saw fewer cases but higher death rates.
Mine drainage could be a cause of recent issues
By Heather Sackett | September 26, 2022
Graves said in general, the environmental concerns associated with mines involve aquatic life like fish and the bugs they eat.
Paid occupancy in Aspen reached 69% this August, down from nearly 75% last year.
By Laurine Lassalle | September 27, 2022
• The Fork was flowing at 109% of average below Maroon Creek and at 100% of average at Emma on Sept. 25.
• Lake Powell’s elevation has gained about one inch since last week.
Documenting COVID-19 in Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties
By Laurine Lassalle | September 27, 2022
Garfield County has reported 32 new COVID-19 cases since Thursday and Eagle County has added eight cases. Pitkin County has recorded eight cases since Thursday.
“‘What’s eroding the town is a sense of community …. I think the town over the years is attracting more and more luxury stores. They drive a lot of revenues, create a lot of taxes. The thing that’s not so great about luxury stores: They’re not full of people. Luxury stores have a high transaction value but not a lot of transactions,’ [RH Chief Executive Officer Gary Friedman said at the meeting].”
Source: aspentimes.com | Listen here
“’The unique energy-load amenity desires of Aspen homeowners in this cold climate are significant,’ [said Nick Thompson, a plans examiner with the city]. ‘We currently see massive — million-BTUs — boilers in homes being installed so that during the holidays, which is typically Aspen’s busiest time and coldest time, houses are kept warm, comfortable. Multiple showers never run out of water, and driveways and patios are kept clear of snow. These amenities will require a massive amount of electricity to electrify them.’”
Source: aspendailynews.com | Read more
“In an email sent to Catholics throughout the state, the Diocese took the stance that the gondola benefits a relative few who already have the means to ski, and that taxpayer money should be used to improve the lives of the state’s most vulnerable, to bolster things like low-income housing, food insecurity, and other quality-of-life issues.”
Source: outsideonline.com | Read more
“But up the side canyons, where monsoon rains have worked away at the layers of silt and debris, slowly starting to wipe away the white “bathtub ring” that reminds us where the lake once stood, nature is returning—and with it, many remarkable alcoves, arches and overhangs that equal or surpass those in the Grand Canyon. Some still contain the archaeology of ancient Puebloan rock structures or steps cut into the sandstone that once served as ladders.”
Source: smithsonianmag.com | Read more
“Unlike a lot of crops, with enough water, farmers in the West can harvest [alfalfa] up to 12 times per year and sell every last bit. … Jobs communities and global supply chains currently rely on western farmers growing vast amounts of cow food in the middle of the desert. But as water supplies continue to shrink, something has to give.”
Source: vox.com | Read more
State budget writers fear consequences of Colorado voters approving affordable housing ballot measure
“The politics surrounding Proposition 123 are more complicated. It’s endorsed by a number of prominent nonprofits and a host of Democratic state lawmakers and politicians. But it also has a bipartisan group of skeptics who want voters to think long and hard before weighing in on the measure, especially given the growing risk of a recession stemming from high inflation and rising interest rates meant to tamp down consumer costs.”
Source: coloradosun.com | Read more
Aspen Journalism’s nonprofit mission is to produce in-depth, investigative journalism for people who care about Aspen, the Roaring Fork Valley, and the upper Colorado River basin.