Summit County health department and chamber host town hall to answer questions about changing COVID-19 recommendations |

Summit County health department and chamber host town hall to answer questions about changing COVID-19 recommendations

Businesses such as restaurants are encouraged to consider a vaccine requirement among staff and patrons

A teacher receives the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine Feb. 13 at the bus depot in Frisco. Adults ages 18 and older are now encouraged to get their booster shots.
Liz Copan/For the Summit Daily News

The Summit Chamber of Commerce and Summit County Public Health Department joined forces to host a virtual town hall Friday, Dec. 3, to debrief the community about where it stands with COVID-19, how hospitalizations are playing a part and what local businesses can be doing to help slow the spread of cases.

According to Summit County’s website, the average seven-day incidence rate is 400 cases per 100,000 people for the past 28 days. Though this rate is decreasing, Summit County Public Health Director Amy Wineland said that is likely due to a brief pause in testing around the Thanksgiving holiday and is not likely to be a persistent trend.

During the town hall, Wineland reported that the latest variant of concern, the omicron variant, has been confirmed in Colorado and that it’s possible the variant could already be in Summit County, where the first case of COVID-19 in the state was confirmed in March 2020. Wineland said the answers to questions such as how effective vaccines are against the variant and how much more deadly or contagious it is are unknown at this time.

“It’s too early to know about the severity of the disease … but they are concerned that it is quickly becoming the dominant strain,” Wineland said.

She stressed that the best way to stay vigilant is to wear masks in indoor public spaces, to stay home and get tested when sick and for adults to receive a booster shot.

After her presentation — and a presentation from Aaron Parmet, infection prevention program manager at St. Anthony Summit Hospital — the virtual event concluded with a Q&A session.

Why does hospital capacity matter? If you’re vaccinated, your chances of being hospitalized are significantly lower.

Summit County Commissioner Tamara Pogue said the question “somewhat misses the point” and that hospital capacity isn’t about whether you’re likely to be hospitalized due to the virus.

“The challenge around hospital capacity is when we see more utilization of our ICU beds in Colorado due to the folks who are largely unvaccinated and who are still ending up in our ERs and in our hospitals due to COVID, that means there are fewer beds available for the traditional things that we have to treat,” Pogue said.

Pogue noted that ski injuries and car accidents along Interstate 70 are common in Summit County this time of year. She emphasized that if more beds are being used by unvaccinated COVID-19 patients, then it leaves fewer beds available for other types of ailments or injuries.

What can businesses do to help?

Wineland said she recommends business owners consider requiring masks in their establishments and implement a vaccine mandate, especially in places where a mask cannot be worn, such as a restaurant.

In addition, Wineland said business owners and leaders can support staff when they feel sick by allowing them to stay home from work.

“We really are encouraging our businesses and the individuals in our community to take that responsibility to protect their workforce, their neighbor, themselves and the patrons that are coming to our community,” Wineland said.

When should someone quarantine?

Wesley Black, who works as a branch chief of the county’s COVID-19 contact tracing team, said if you’re fully vaccinated and have been exposed to the virus, you do not need to quarantine if you don’t have any symptoms. For those who do have symptoms and are fully vaccinated, Black said to stay home and get tested.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all individuals get tested five to seven days after exposure, regardless of vaccination status.

Black said those who are not vaccinated and have been exposed to the virus must stay home. He said if the county doesn’t contact those individuals about the exposure, then they should reach out to public health at 970-668-9161.

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