Data shows COVID-19 case rates on the decline in Summit County |

Data shows COVID-19 case rates on the decline in Summit County

Mask mandate to remain in place through the end of January

A medical technician performs a COVID-19 screening test at the Silverthorne drive-thru testing site Nov. 20, 2020. Testing has been in high demand in recent weeks as the omicron variant began circulating in the community.
Jason Connolly/For the Summit Daily News

Could the latest surge of the omicron variant and rising COVID-19 case rates be nearing completion in Summit County? It’s quite possible.

Last week’s trend of declining cases seems to be continuing, which was the highlight of Summit County Public Health Director Amy Wineland’s message during the Tuesday, Jan. 18, Board of Health meeting.

Though Summit County is still experiencing what Wineland called enormously high levels of new cases, she said some resort communities like Summit are starting to report downward trends.

“The good news is that northwest (Colorado) really experienced some of the highest rates early on — most of the resort communities are within this region, of course — and is starting to see sustained decline,” Wineland said.

According to the county’s website, the incidence rate for the past seven days is 1,919 cases per 100,000 people, showing a decreasing trend.

Also a good sign is what’s happening with hospitalizations across the state. Wineland said the omicron variant is known to be more mild in nature, and while hospitalizations have mirrored the increase of case rates, those hospitalized with the virus being their primary diagnosis have dwindled. This means most individuals seeking higher levels of care are in the hospital for another reason. While this is a good sign, Wineland pointed out that this still puts a demand on health care staff.

“Many people who are in the hospital are there for other reasons and also have COVID because of the high community transmission rate,” Wineland said. “This is good news in that it also is showing up to continue to be more mild in nature, but it also can complicate and extend people’s stay who were not originally there for COVID but who now have COVID. It also requires these individuals to have isolated rooms, which can impact the amount of (personal protection equipment) required for caring for that patient and the need for increased staff, as well.”

St. Anthony Summit Hospital’s bed capacity in Frisco continues to be just fine, and Wineland said it’s never neared surge capacity. According to the county’s website, bed occupancy is at about 53% as of Monday, Jan. 17.

Though these are all promising trends, Wineland still cautioned that most ski resorts are coming off a busy weekend with Martin Luther King Jr. Day and that Presidents Day is coming up in February, which means more visitors. During these holiday weekends, Wineland said she expects there to be a subsequent spike in cases.

“When we look across the duration of our pandemic … yes, we’re celebrating the sustained decline here, but it’s really important for everyone to keep in mind that we are still much higher, we have a higher incidence rate than any other time during our pandemic, so it is really important for people to keep doing what we’re asking everyone to do,” Wineland said.

Also good news is that the wait times for testing have leveled out. At one point, Wineland said individuals were waiting two to three hours for a test. Now, the average wait time at the state-run testing sites in Frisco and Silverthorne is two minutes, and the average wait time in Breckenridge is five minutes.

In addition, Wineland said resources like the new testing site at the Dillon Marina parking lot and the new federal program that allows all individuals to get four free rapid at-home tests will help alleviate testing demand.

During the meeting, Wineland celebrated the news that 40% of Summit County’s population has received a booster dose.

Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence pointed out that those who have recently gotten the virus can receive their booster shot as soon as they aren’t symptomatic. Lawrence guessed that this could be a reason why community members have been slower to get their booster compared to getting their initial vaccine doses.

“I think there could be a hesitancy from a lot of people to get their booster … because maybe they just had COVID, and I think it’s still really unclear (if you) just had omicron, how soon can (you) get a booster. And I think people are real, real confused about that,” Lawrence said.

Because the community seems to be faring better than late last month, Summit County government officials discussed whether the mask mandate should remain in place. Ultimately, it was decided that the mandate would expire at the end of the month or possibly sooner if cases continue to dramatically decrease.

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