Summit County health director predicts incidence rate will fall below 100 by next week
Colorado School of Public Health estimates almost half of the state was infected with the omicron variant
Summit County Public Health Director Amy Wineland had a lot of good news to share about the presence of COVID-19 in the community.
“We are seeing that dramatic decline in cases and … and we have not seen that in a while,” Wineland said during a Board of Health meeting Tuesday, Feb. 1. “I don’t think anyone could have predicted that big of a decline that quickly.”
Wineland reported that the county’s incidence rate continues to drop and predicted that it would fall below 100 cases per 100,000 people by next week. Currently, the incidence rate is about 497 cases. At the beginning of January, it was 3,050 cases per 100,000 people.
Also on the decline are case rates in all age groups; the community’s positivity rate, or the percentage of tests that return positive; and hospitalizations across the state where the virus is the primary cause of concern.
One of the biggest highlights of Wineland’s presentation was where the state stands in regard to immunity. Wineland said the Colorado School of Public Health estimated that over the past six weeks, immunity rose rapidly to 75% as almost half of the state’s population was infected with the omicron variant.
This is in contrast to the organization’s prediction that less than 20% of the state’s population was immune to the virus by the end of 2020.
When asked how long this immunity would last, Wineland said experts are unsure but predicted that it would prevail at least through the spring. In the short-term, Wineland said the community can expect to see dwindling case rates for the next 30 to 40 days.
“Trajectories in Denmark and South Africa, who are ahead of us, indicate that we could experience an extended plateau,” Wineland said.
According to her presentation, the Colorado School of Public Health estimates that the majority of unvaccinated individuals were infected. Combining that with breakthrough cases and vaccinated individuals will leave few people susceptible to infection by early March, she said.
Moving into the long-term future, Wineland reported that although there will be surges in cases over time, experts believe they will be half that of the omicron variant and that new variants likely won’t cause an uptick in hospitalizations.
“Surges in cases will continue, and we are not at all over COVID, but we’re in a much better place to handle (it) with the tools we currently have,” Wineland said.
As case rates continue to decline, the demand for testing continues to wane. Case in point: The Dillon testing site is no longer in operation because it wasn’t used frequently enough. Currently, the average wait time for a test at the Frisco, Breckenridge and Silverthorne sites are all around a minute along. During the last week of January, the Frisco and Silverthorne sites averaged around 67 tests per day while the Breckenridge site averaged about 46 tests per day.
Brian Bovaird, the county’s director of emergency management, said demand for personal protective equipment is also on the downward trend as well as the volume of outreach from community members on the county’s public information line.
“The public information line right now, after the big surge, we’re probably averaging about 15 calls a week, and we’re getting about two to four emails per day with questions,” Bovaird said.
Looking ahead, Wineland said she will continue to work with Summit School District and local child care directors to ensure in-person learning is “protected.” Currently, 39% of children ages 5-11 are vaccinated and 90% of children ages 12-15 are vaccinated.
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