Summit County officials prepare for changes to state COVID-19 dial
Summit County officials are anxiously awaiting a new COVID-19 dial, which could make it easier for counties to move in and out of restriction levels.
At a Summit County Board of Health meeting Tuesday, Feb. 2, officials discussed the new COVID-19 dial, which is expected to be revealed later this week.
On Saturday, Jan. 30, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment officials met with county public health directors to discuss the new dial. The dial is not yet finalized as the state spent the past two days gathering feedback on the potential changes.
At a news conference Tuesday, Gov. Jared Polis said the state received more than 1,000 comments from the public.
“The (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment) and our health team will spend a couple of days going through those suggestions and recommendations,” Polis said. “I hope that they will finalize the updates by Thursday or Friday, … but we want to do a thorough job of making sure they look at all of the input that has come in.”
One of the major proposed changes to the dial is to go from looking at metrics on a two-week average to looking at seven-day averages, allowing counties to move throughout the dial faster.
The new dial also changes the incidence rate requirements for each level. According to the draft changes, level orange would include counties with seven-day incidence rates averaging from 300-500 new cases per 100,000 people. A county wouldn’t be able to move to the less restrictive level yellow until it reported 300 or fewer new cases per 100,000 people. Previously, the level orange threshold was set at 350.
Although it’s not clear how the dial changes will impact Summit, Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said she’s concerned how potentially relaxed restrictions might impact cases locally. According to the state’s dial dashboard, Summit County was showing a two-week incidence of 845.6 new cases per 100,000 people as of Tuesday.
“We’re just anxious to see what this means,” Lawrence said. “When I see 845, it sure makes me nervous to further relax restrictions when we could then end up right back in a delicate situation.”
The new dial also is expected to put more emphasis on testing. The draft changes propose tighter thresholds for levels orange and yellow in the positivity rate metric, which looks at the percentage of positive tests out of total tests.
In level yellow, the proposed dial would require that counties show a seven-day positivity rate of no more than 7.5%. In level orange, the rate would be no more than 10% before the number would fall into level red. As of Tuesday, Summit’s two-week positivity rate was at 7.5%.
The change shows that the state will be valuing testing more than ever going forward. In general, a higher positivity rate means that counties are not testing enough people to accurately capture the spread of the virus in a community.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Public Health Director Amy Wineland said it’s important for everyone to get tested regardless of symptoms.
“We really need to have everyone think COVID first,” she said. “If it’s a sniffle, it’s COVID. If it’s a headache, it’s COVID. If it’s a cough, it’s COVID.”
Wineland added that the county is working with the state to get local testing for the variants of the virus. The county is anticipating opening a testing site at Copper Mountain Resort, which Wineland hopes might be able to be used for variant testing.
The changes to the dial don’t mean things will immediately change in Summit County, however. At the meeting, Public Health spokesperson Nicole Valentine said the county will be given a weeklong grace period with the new metrics.
“As we look at our seven-day metrics, the ability to go into further opening measures or fewer restrictions for businesses would be available after the seven days have been met for the criteria,” she said. “We do have a little bit of a window before immediate changes happen.”
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 in Silverthorne. No appointment, insurance or identification is 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 schedule a coronavirus vaccination appointment across the state:
• Summit County vaccines: SummitCountyCo.gov/vaccine
• List of vaccination providers across Colorado: CoCovidVaccine.org
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