Summit County’s COVID-19 trends worsen
State health department set to release latest dial Wednesday
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include the latest incidence and positivity rates as of 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Summit County continues to move in the wrong direction with regard to COVID-19 transmission trends.
Public Health Director Amy Wineland provided an update on the local COVID-19 situation during a joint work session with the Summit Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday afternoon, noting that case numbers have continued to increase over the past week.
“We have started seeing a pretty steady increase over the last week,” Wineland said. “We really believe this is due to spring break and all the visitors that are here, as well. We are seeing quite a few outbreaks in our restaurant industry, social gatherings, as well, happening right now. So it’s a concern that we’re heading in the wrong direction at this point. We know that we’re not alone in that. Other resort communities are also experiencing increases right now.”
Pitkin County, where Aspen is located, is set to move backward on the dial to level orange Wednesday because of rising case numbers.
Summit County’s seven-day cumulative incidence rate, which shows the number of new cases per 100,000 residents, jumped from about 167 on March 15 to more than 309 on Tuesday, March 23, according to data on the state’s COVID-19 webpage. That falls within level orange.
The county’s seven-day average positivity rate, or the percentage of tests that return positive, grew from 4.7% on March 12, which falls in level blue, to 7.6% on Tuesday, falling in level orange.
The latest data could send Summit County backward on the dial.
Wineland said the county also continues to see an increase in variant cases. There have been 12 confirmed cases in the county to date, and 30 more tests are pending results.
“The 30 that are pending are folks that have been involved in outbreaks that we’ve seen in business settings,” Wineland said. “Two of them are involved in restaurants and two of them are in retail businesses, also involving social gatherings both in the work setting and outside the work setting.
“It does take seven to 10 days for the samples to go through the full sequencing, but we are expecting all of those to be positive and new variants. It’s really great that we’re really focusing (vaccinations) on our restaurant population right now because we know that has been one of the industries hardest hit for outbreaks.”
Officials are hopeful that case numbers will die back down as more of the community is inoculated. Restaurant workers became eligible for vaccinations last week as part of the latest phase, which also included other essential workers. On Tuesday, the county held a state-sponsored vaccination clinic for restaurant employees, distributing 500 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Overall, nearly 40% of Summit County residents have received at least one dose, and the county has finally surpassed 70% for the 70-and-older population. Residents largely appear to be eager for their chance. Wineland said there are 13,281 community members preregistered for a vaccine, of which 3,969 are currently eligible.
In addition to the 500 doses already distributed to restaurant workers, the county received 870 vaccine doses this week that will be distributed at an event Friday. Wineland said other providers in the community received a combined 1,120 doses.
Despite relatively large amounts of vaccine coming into the community, Wineland said it likely would take “at least” one or two more weeks until the currently eligible population is vaccinated and that there could be some overlap with the next phase, which includes the general public.
“We’re hearing early April is the estimated time to open it up to (the general public), so we’ll likely be overlapping,” Wineland said. “We probably won’t be done 100% with (the current phase), but we’ll have enough vaccine to start that next group.”
Officials are already planning ahead for expanded vaccine distribution efforts. Wineland said two more mobile neighborhood clinics have been scheduled for mid-April, one in collaboration with the Family & Intercultural Resource Center and the other for employee housing at Keystone Resort. She noted that health officials are hoping to set up another for Copper Mountain Resort employees, as well.
Summit County officials briefly discussed changes to the state’s new COVID-19 dial, which is set to take effect Wednesday, March 24, and would relax metrics to make it easier for communities to move to level green. Restrictions also would be loosened for counties in level blue for bars, retail stores, offices and noncritical manufacturing facilities.
Summit County is hosting a virtual town hall on the updated dial at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. Officials will discuss how the new framework would impact businesses in the community and allow residents to ask questions. A link to the event can be found on the county’s Facebook page.
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. The site will be closed Sunday because of weather.
• 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. This site will be closed Saturday and Sunday due to weather.
• 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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