Summit County officials plan to resist state-mandated move back to level orange
Summit County officials plan to resist a potential move to level orange on the state’s COVID-19 dial, hoping to convince the state that Summit’s case numbers will see a decline once spring break visitors have left the area.
Public Health Director Amy Wineland provided local officials with an update on the COVID-19 situation during a joint meeting with the Summit Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday afternoon, reporting that Summit’s case numbers have reached a point where a move backward on the dial is likely this weekend.
Wineland said last week that Summit County would be moved from level yellow to orange on the state’s dial if the county’s seven-day cumulative incidence rate remained above 345 new cases per 100,000 residents for five consecutive days. According to data from the state’s website, the current rate is more than 367 per 100,000, and Tuesday represented the fifth consecutive day above the 345 mark.
Summit County can avoid the move if the trend dips below the threshold before the change is set to take place. Wineland said she expects to get a letter from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on Wednesday and that the county could move back to level orange Saturday. The move would mean capacity limits would essentially be cut in half for restaurants, gyms, sports groups, personal services and events.
But officials voiced a desire to push back against any change.
“I hate to sound like a petulant child that says ’it’s not fair,’ but it’s not fair,” Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said. “We’ve seen other counties — similar peer counties, resort communities — have gone well above and beyond their dial numbers for a long time, and they were not moved. This seems that we’re being held to a different, quite strict standard here. And I wish they would give us a little bit of grace in the same way that they’ve given that to other counties.”
Commissioner Tamara Pogue said a potential move to orange was “deeply flawed,” noting that she expects a large number of visitors to leave the community early next week as spring break wraps up.
County Manager Scott Vargo said the county could try to appeal to the state based on the fact that some of Summit’s restrictions are already tighter than the current dial requires, including the time for alcohol last call and two-household gathering rules at restaurants and short-term rentals.
“The things that are left are further restricting capacity of restaurants and those areas that have been hardest hit already,” Vargo said.
Officials also discussed what restrictions might remain locally after the state gets rid of the dial altogether in mid-April. The commissioners largely agreed that the easiest method to implement restrictions would be to continue working off the dial but with some local alterations for things like events and lodging.
Before anything is set in stone, the commissioners decided they would reach out to the business community and members of the public to try to get realistic feedback about what would work best locally. Officials also said they were hoping to provide the community with some advanced warning on milestones and dates when restrictions could change, but uncertainty about what the county’s COVID-19 situation will look like in a few weeks could complicate things, particularly the growth in variant cases and the number of people vaccinated.
“Of course, as we’re seeing more increase in variant activity, we would still be hopeful and optimistic that we’re going to see our numbers decline, but if variants take hold, that could present a different issue for us,” Vargo said. “We have to be flexible with where we stand and what we’re going to do in the community.”
Wineland said there are currently 19 confirmed variant cases in the community and 62 variant cases pending, of which she expects all to return positive results.
“In the last two weeks, 27% of our positive cases are variant cases,” Wineland said. “So this is a concern. We know that we’re kind of in a race right now, not just locally but nationally, to get vaccines into arms as quickly as possible. We really need every adult in our population to sign up for a vaccine. … It’s really important for our community to move to protect ourselves from another wave of cases.”
Officials are hopeful that more of the community becoming eligible for the vaccine will help. On Friday, the state will move into Phase 2 of the vaccine rollout, meaning that all adults 16 and older statewide will be eligible for inoculation.
About 44% of adults in the county have already received at least one dose, and 73% of the 70-and-older population has been fully vaccinated. Wineland said the county is set to distribute more than 3,600 doses at vaccination events Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week. There was also a neighborhood vaccination clinic in Dillon Valley on Tuesday night in collaboration with Dillon Valley Elementary.
Beginning Friday, individuals ages 16 and 17 will be eligible only for the Pfizer vaccine as both the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are for people 18 and older. A parent or guardian will be required to attend vaccinations with minors in case they suffer any reaction. Because minors are eligible only for the Pfizer vaccine, Wineland said there would be efforts to hold back appointments for the younger group when doses become available.
Otherwise, officials emphasized that they still don’t have the capability to accommodate personal requests for certain vaccines. Regardless, officials are urging every adult in the community to sign up for a vaccination, to honor their pledge to get their second dose, if necessary, and to continue getting tested if they’re symptomatic.
“It is the only way that we’re going to get out of this dark hole that we are in and to have the summer that we all hope to have a few months from now,” Wineland said.
The following places offer testing for the virus in Summit County:
• Centura Health’s Centers for Occupational Medicine in Frisco: Testing available daily by appointment at the Vista Professional Building. To schedule an appointment, call 970-668-5584.
• State testing in Silverthorne: Drive-thru testing available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily at 591 Center Circle. No appointment, insurance or identification required.
• Vail Health testing in Breckenridge: Testing available by appointment from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays at the Speakeasy Movie Theater, 103 S. Harris St. To book an appointment, go to VailHealth.org/covidscheduling.
The following links have information about how to get vaccinated:
• Get on a list to be vaccinated through the public health department in Summit County, or any other county: CoMassVax.org
• Centura Health: Centura.org/covid-19/covid-19-vaccine-information
• List of vaccination providers across Colorado: CoCOVIDVaccine.org
People ages 50 and older, health care workers, first responders, educators, essential workers and people with one or more high-risk condition are eligible for the vaccine.
People with questions about the local response to COVID-19 can call the county’s hotline at 970-668-9730 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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