Summit County reports increase in COVID-19 cases due to the holidays
Colorado has seen a 17.2% increase in cases of the novel coronavirus related to the Christmas and New Year’s Eve holidays, statewide data shows.
At a Summit County Board of Health meeting Thursday, Jan. 14, Public Health Director Amy Wineland presented the most recent statewide data that shows all of Colorado is in the midst of a bump in cases due to the holidays.
Just in the past week, the state has seen a 58% increase in cases, Wineland added. While an increase in cases from the holiday is expected, Wineland said the state’s announcement before New Year’s that all level red counties would move into level orange also might have had an impact. Level red counties didn’t move into level orange until after the holidays, but the announcement was made before New Year’s Eve.
“… People thought that that meant they could gather more, maybe than they were intending to do, because they knew some of the restrictions were going to be lessened by the end of the weekend,” Wineland said about public health officials’ thoughts behind the rise in cases.
Summit County has seen an increase in cases along with the state. As of Thursday, the county’s incidence rate was at 690.7 new cases per 100,000 people, which is an increase from a low of 519.6 cases last week. The incidence rate as of Thursday is down from the 703.6 new cases per 100,000 the county was reporting Wednesday, Jan. 13.
It’s still too soon to know whether the current trends will result in a steady increase over time or simply be a blip due to the holidays.
Gatherings among ski resort employees and people in the school system, including students and staff, are accounting for many of the county’s new cases, Wineland said.
“What we’ve heard from some of the interviews that we’re conducting is that people have said that they’ve been doing really well, they’ve been practicing everything, so they thought just one get-together with a couple of families they haven’t seen in a while wasn’t going to be a big deal,” she said. “The problem is that 100 other people are thinking the same thing.”
Wineland said the collective decision to gather or ignore public health advice is what is ultimately causing the increase in cases.
At the meeting, Wineland also gave an update on the county’s vaccination efforts.
The county held a drive-thru vaccination event Thursday, during which volunteers and public health workers were able to administer 458 vaccines.
Up until this week, the county had administered 2,500 vaccines, and Wineland said she expects the county to administer 2,000 more by the end of the day Sunday, Jan. 17.
While the speed at which the county’s been able to vaccinate its 70 and older population is impressive, public health officials have been told they aren’t allowed to start vaccinating essential workers, who are next on the state’s current distribution plan.
“We’ve been told we cannot (move forward), and if we do, we jeopardize our ability to get the vaccine again,” Wineland said.
Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said county commissioners from across the state are asking for more clarity on how counties should prioritize part-time residents.
Currently, Summit County is vaccinating people who are 70 or older, have lived in the county for at least 60 days and will be in the county for at least 60 more days.
“There was a strong consensus that we want to have some aligned messaging across the state when it comes to this,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence added that the issue applies to counties across the state, not just resort areas like Summit. For example, places with colleges are having to work through the best way to vaccinate the student population.
“It’s a good thing if those people in our community — whatever the phase of the vaccine that we are in — are able to get vaccinated,” she said. “In the same way that someone who is staying here in our community would count toward a case number, we should want them to get a vaccine.”
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