By Jamie Leary

ASPEN, Colo. (CBS4) – Pitkin County is now the only county operating in the Level Red on the state’s COVID-19 dial. While restaurants have closed indoor dining, the county found a way to keep some of its biggest events in place.

“So, X Games this year will look quite a bit different,” said Tiffany Greenlee, COVID-19 Program Administrator for Pitkin County.

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The planning to make sure the X Games can continue in some capacity has been immense. For the first time, it will be a spectator-less event, with changes for fans and athletes alike.

“The groups of people coming will look a lot different, so each athlete won’t be bringing the usual large group of trainers, and you know, supporters,” Greenlee said. “Staff have worked very hard to kind of create their own bubble, so the event will be contained in one space.”

According to the X Games website, the event will be a virtual experience and bring the excitement to fans at home. Fans will be able to interact with sponsors and check out live, interactive cameras.

“I’m definitely going to watch it online. I’m excited to see what they’re going to do with the TV cameras. I think they’re going to come up with some cool stuff to keep people interested,” said Finn Allen.

Allen, on break from college, grew up in Aspen and knows how important events, like the X Games, are for the community.

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“It’s going to be very different. You know, it’s usually a big crowd with a lot of people from Denver and younger crowds come up here. I just think it’s going to be very different this year,” said Allen.

Organizers with the annual Aspen Gay Ski Week, which runs from Jan. 17-24, announced this year, there would be no in-person events.

“Gay Ski Week has done a lot of work with their event to plan some virtual events so even though indoor events have been canceled. There are still safe ways to have the event. There is still skiing,” said Greenlee.

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To locals, like Allen, things seem quieter than years past.

“I mean, it’s definitely not as many people as are normally here, but it seems like people are enjoying themselves,” he said.

Allen isn’t wrong. Greenlee says visitor numbers are down and believes transmission of COVID-19 has been occurring locally.

“Not everyone can identify the source of transmission. We know that community transmission is high right now. Informal gatherings play a part in that,” said Greenlee.

To get out of the Level Red status, Pitkin County needs to see case counts around 700 per 100,000. On Tuesday, it was sitting at 2,697.

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“We’re really hoping it’s a couple weeks when we’ll start to see that change, and you know, that really changes the conversation for the entire community,” said Tracy Trulove, Pitkin County Public Information Officer.

Trulove said finding ways to make things work under the restrictions has been a community effort.

“It hasn’t always been an easy conversation, but those conversations continue, and X Games is a perfect example of how much time Tiffany (Greenlee) and the team has worked with ESPN and Vanessa (Anthes), who is the local X Games guru, to really come up with a plan where they can move forward,” said Trulove.

Trulove says the larger picture comes back to personal responsibility.

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“If people are gathering outside of their own household, they run the risk of transmitting COVID and passing it on so, we kind of have to keep going back to those protective measure that have been in place since this event started in March,” she said.

Jamie Leary