Dr. Fauci discusses COVID-19 vaccination plans as nation faces a ’surge upon a surge’ of cases
KEYSTONE — The United States is facing a “surge upon a surge” of novel coronavirus cases, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert.
“I think we’re going to be looking at 30 or more days of a period of time of precarious risk,” he said at a news conference with Colorado Gov. Jared Polis on Tuesday, Dec. 1.
At the news conference, Fauci reiterated what many local and state officials have said over the past month: cases are rising faster than they have before, and people need to wear masks and avoid gatherings as much as possible.
However, Fauci also shared a message of hope, as a vaccine likely will be available later this month. Both Moderna and Pfizer have submitted vaccines, which will require two doses per person, for authorization by the Food and Drug Administration.
Fauci said once a vaccine is available, the country will have about 40 million doses for about 20 million people. The vaccines will then be allocated to states based on population.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a draft “playbook” for state governments Tuesday. According to Colorado’s playbook, the vaccine will be administered in three phases.
In Phase 1, health care workers, first responders and people living in long-term care facilities will receive the vaccine. In Phase 2, prioritization will be given to critical populations, such as the elderly and people who are at high risk. In Phase 3, the state will be able to allocate vaccinations to anyone who wants one.
“Once we get there, we can crush this outbreak, just the way we did with smallpox, with polio and with measles,” Fauci said. “We just need to hang together a bit longer.”
At a Summit County Board of Health meeting Tuesday, Public Health Director Amy Wineland said the county isn’t ready to release its exact plans for the vaccine but that the plans will follow what is required by the state.
“We’ll talk to you more about what our plans are once we know when we’re getting the vaccine,” Wineland said. “Light is at the end of the tunnel, but (there are) still a lot of hard weeks ahead.”
Wineland added that it’s more important now than ever for people to continue wearing masks and not gathering with other households. In the coming weeks, the county will be meeting with state health officials to discuss cases numbers and its placement on the COVID-19 dial.
The county’s public health order has level red restrictions expiring in Dec. 18. However, if the numbers don’t improve at that time, the county could remain in level red past that date, Wineland said.
Currently, the county is reporting a testing positivity rate — the percentage of positive test results out of total tests — of 7.8%, which falls into level yellow. The county’s two-week incidence rate remains in level red with 1,256 new cases per 100,000 people, according to the state’s dial dashboard.
“(State officials) want to wait and see what happens a week or two after Thanksgiving to see what impact that had and whether we were able to keep that rise in numbers to a minimum,” Wineland said.
At the meeting, Assistant County Manager Sarah Vaine also gave an update on testing efforts. Currently, the county has three testing options for the general public, with two sites run by Centura Health and Vail Health in Frisco and a state-run drive-thru site in Silverthorne.
The Vail Health testing site at the Old Community Center in Frisco is not meeting its testing capacity, Vaine said. Because of this, Vail Health, Breckenridge Grand Vacations and Arapahoe Basin Ski Area — which all partnered to bring the clinic to Frisco — are considering moving it to Breckenridge, where there is no community testing available.
“Our hope is that the number of tests being conducted there will be utilized more frequently and that that will create greater access across the county for folks,” Vaine said.
The testing site would move Monday, Dec. 7, at the earliest, she said.
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