Q&A: Summit County officials address concerns about new public health order
On Friday, local leaders hosted a town hall for business owners and residents to learn more information about the new local dial and updated restrictions that took effect earlier in the day.
During the virtual event, Director of Public Health Amy Wineland walked attendees through a presentation explaining the new dial and why certain metrics were set. Afterward, local officials took turns answering questions.
What considerations are there for businesses that have most, if not all, of their staff vaccinated?
“What’s really important is that we’re still learning a lot about the vaccine,” Wineland said. “We know that it’s almost 100% preventable in serious illness, hospitalizations and death.
“What we also know is that people who are fully vaccinated still contract the virus. They still might have mild illness, and they might spread the virus. What role vaccinated people play in the continued spread of this virus we are still learning. … It is really critical that even people who have been vaccinated continue to wear that mask until we reach a high level of protection within our population.”
Wineland also mentioned immunization passports and said the county is not considering using them at this time.
“There’s a lot of concern about implementing something like that where we’re asking people to reveal personal health information,” she said. “It also exemplifies the haves and the have-nots.”
What happens if we don’t hit our goal of getting 70% of the county’s population vaccinated?
“Right now, 66% of our population is partially vaccinated,” Wineland said. “That means we will be at 66% fully vaccinated within three to four weeks because all of those people have been either fully vaccinated already or (are) awaiting just one more vaccine. Again, we’re likely going to reach 66% by early May. That’s only 4 more percent that we need to get to, which is really not very much.”
With the vaccination allocation the county expects to receive from the state, Wineland said she foresees no issue reaching the county’s goal of 70%.
Who is included in the vaccination numbers?
Assistant County Manager Sarah Vaine said only people whose addresses are in Summit County are counted. These numbers, she said, are tracked by the state.
Vaine acknowledged that since the county has a high transient population, it’s difficult to be precise with the data, but with the county’s trending vaccination numbers, she said officials “have no doubt we will reach our goal.”
County spokesperson Nicole Valentine said those who were vaccinated in other states and want to update the county can email email@example.com.
How did county officials choose 70% as the vaccination goal?
Wineland said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s current recommendation to reach herd immunity is between 70% and 90%. She also said the CDC believes 10% of the population has natural immunity, which can happen after someone has been infected.
So if 70% of the county’s population can get vaccinated and 10% are assumed to have natural immunity, then 80% of the county’s population will be immune to the virus.
Wineland warned the public to use the term “herd immunity” thoughtfully.
“I do want to caution that we’re not going to say we’ve reached herd immunity,” she said. “I think it’s really important to understand that that’s going to fluctuate and continue to fluctuate.”
Wineland also said that because children younger than 16 are not yet eligible to get vaccinated, it’s important that those who are eligible are getting inoculated.
Pfizer already submitted data for a vaccine that could be administered to 12- to 15-year-olds, and Moderna is also looking at that age group. Wineland said she hopes there will be a vaccine available to younger teens in June.
What does hitting level green mean?
When the county moves into level green — either by getting 70% of its population vaccinated or having 100 or fewer new cases per 100,000 residents over a seven-day period — measures such as capacity limits and the 6-foot physical distancing rule would be removed.
Wineland said the mask mandate most likely will be one of the last measures to be removed since it has proven to be a successful tool against the virus. Wineland also noted that the county would need to follow whatever state public health order is in place at that time.
As Summit County nears level green, Wineland said officials will continue to evaluate best practices.
Why is Summit County using incidence rates for restrictions rather than hospitalizations and deaths?
“We’re weighing hospitalizations much more than our incidence level,” Wineland said about the new local dial. “We’re not going backward on the dial, so I think it’s really important to understand that, unless we reach that surge capacity at our hospital, which is 80% or higher. We will not be putting in more restrictions until then.”
According to Wineland, the new dial framework is a one-way path to reopening the community unless hospitalizations become a problem. Then the county would move back to a more restrictive level.
Level green: Incidence rate of zero to 100 cases per 100,000 residents or 70% fully vaccinated
Level blue: Incidence rate of 101 to 250 cases per 100,000 residents and 60% fully vaccinated
Level yellow: Incidence rate of 251 to 500 cases per 100,000 residents and 50% vaccinated with at least one dose
Level orange: Incidence rate of 501 or more cases per 100,000 residents and 40% vaccinated with at least one dose
Level red: Local hospital system reaches 80% of surge capacity or regional hospital system reaches 85% of surge capacity
Level purple: Statewide hospital system is threatened and approaching the need for medical crisis standards of care, using alternative care sites, critical shortages of staff, or hospitals approaching 90% of surge capacity
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