Summit County public health encourages remote work as COVID-19 transmission rate hits all-time high |

Summit County public health encourages remote work as COVID-19 transmission rate hits all-time high

The response from the Summit County Public Health Department and some local organizations regarding the omicron variant has felt eerily similar to the onset of the pandemic in March 2020.

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s website, the case rate for Summit County is 20,528 cases per 100,000 people, the seventh highest in the state. The county’s one-week incidence rate, like most of the state, is considered “very high.”

On Monday, Dec. 27, Summit County sent out an alert to community members that its public health department “is reporting record high COVID rates and critical staffing shortages countywide.” The alert went on to encourage community members to transition to remote work when possible, while also asking residents to get vaccinated and boosted, wear a mask in all indoor public spaces, limit gatherings, isolate when sick and seek testing.

A few hours later, the county sent out a news release informing the public that its public health department confirmed record high COVID-19 transmission rates in the community. The release stated the county totaled 745 new cases within the past week. Three local testing sites have been collecting 500 to 1,000 tests each day during the same time period.

Also Monday, the town of Breckenridge announced that all of its employees will be working remotely and that town offices will be closed until further notice.

Local health clinics, such as Ebert Family Clinic and the Summit Community Care Clinic, are encouraging patients to switch to telehealth appointments when possible and are allowing some staff to work from home.

“When the pandemic started, and we had no vaccines, and we had no medicine, and we knew that it spread, (the virus) was going to kill a lot of people,” said Dr. Christine Ebert-Santos. “As medical providers throughout (the community), we did cancel all the routine in-person care. Remember, no one was going to the doctor because they didn’t want to have a chance of getting sick or getting contact with someone who has COVID. That’s where we’re at today.”

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's website shows the skyrocketing number of positive cases in Summit County as of Tuesday, Dec. 28.
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment/Courtesy screenshot

Ebert-Santos said this phase of the pandemic feels similar to March 2020 in that a portion of her staff is working remotely and that routine in-person appointments will be canceled for at least a couple of weeks if not longer. She said her own patient population testing for the virus is reflecting Summit County’s high numbers, though most of these cases aren’t severe.

“I would say it’s an explosion of positive cases of all ages — parents, children,” Ebert-Santos said.

Both Ebert-Santos and Dr. Kathleen Cowie, chief medical officer for the Summit Community Care Clinic, said they believe most of these exposures are coming from family gatherings or from the workplace. Not only is each clinic testing for the virus, but Ebert-Santos and Cowie said their staff is being impacted, too.

“We’re operating short staffed because we have folks who have family members who are sick or children that they need to stay home and take care of,” Cowie said.

On top of this, Cowie said her staff is “rolling with the punches” as new guidance is released on various measures, including the new guidance for how long to quarantine laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to a news release from the CDC, those who test positive for COVID-19 but have no symptoms no longer need to isolate for 10 days. Instead, these individuals should isolate for five days and wear a mask for the following five days when around others.

Those who are exposed to the virus who are either unvaccinated, more than six months out from their Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, or more than two months out from their J&J vaccine should quarantine for five days followed by strict mask use for an additional five days. When isolation is not feasible, the CDC recommends individuals wear a tightly fitted mask for 10 days.

Alternatively, individuals who have been boosted do not need to isolate following an exposure but should wear a mask for 10 days afterward.

Regardless of vaccination status, the CDC still recommends individuals get tested five days following their exposure, whether they are showing symptoms or not. If symptoms occur, those individuals should quarantine until they get their test results back.

Nearly two years into the pandemic, it’s understandable why many feel burned out by the virus. Even still, Ebert-Santos said small efforts will go a long way in curbing this current surge.

“There’s just so little we can do in the face of this epidemic that we have to go back to the basics of frequent hand sanitizer, hand washing, masks,” Ebert-Santos said. “Just stay home, stay out of public places.”

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's website shows Summit County's high incidence rate as of Tuesday, Dec. 28.
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment/Courtesy Screenshot
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