Summit County’s COVID cases, breakthrough cases on the rise
Health officials point to the delta variant, increased visitors for the troubling figures
As the delta variant makes its way through communities across the nation and state of Colorado, officials are urgently encouraging individuals to get vaccinated and that everyone, including vaccinated individuals, should now be wearing a mask in public indoor spaces. Among those spreading the new message is Summit County Public Health Director Amy Wineland.
During a Summit County Board of Health meeting on Friday, July 30, Wineland gave an update about the risk of the virus in the community. In general, Wineland warned that the delta variant is likely the main strain present both in the community and the state, and that despite the county’s 78% vaccination rate, the variant is causing an increase in cases, including breakthrough cases.
Wineland said the resort communities are experiencing an increase in cases more so than the rest of the state, and that Summit County’s rate is increasing at a higher rate than others.
Currently, Summit County’s seven-day incidence date is about 237 cases per 100,000 residents and this rate is increasing. For reference, as of June 26, the county’s incidence rate was 20 per 100,000 residents.
“Things have taken a turn for the worst and we are seeing COVID across the country, especially with the delta variant, get out of control,” said Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence.
According to the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, the county has the fourth highest vaccination rate. About 78% of the county’s population is fully vaccinated and about 86% of the population has received at least one dose. What’s contributing to these high case numbers? Wineland said it’s the high number of visitors visiting the county.
New cases this week: 90
Seven day cumulative incidence rate: 235.7
Hospital occupancy: 35.3%
New hospitalizations this week: 0
Vaccination rate: 77.7% of residents are fully vaccinated. 85.9% have received at least one dose.
Source: Summit County Public Health
Wineland reported that since July 4, the county has averaged almost three visitors per resident and that the county is tied with San Miguel County for the highest number of visitors. The data also means Summit County sees 50% more visitors than Pitkin, Gunnison and Grand Counties and almost triple the amount of visitors going to Routt and Eagle counties.
According to the data Wineland presented, Summit County was the most visited county in the state in terms of overnight visitors per local resident.
The county is seeing visitors from the state, but it’s also seeing many visitors from states with lower vaccination rates such as Texas, Nebraska and Missouri. This is largely impacting the increase in cases within the county.
“We love our visitors,” Wineland said. “They are really critical to our economic recovery but they are playing a role here related to the spread of the virus.”
This increase in cases means breakthrough cases are also on the rise.
Wineland said there were about 70 breakthrough cases logged in the county from January up until now, and that breakthrough cases account for 4% of all cases. Currently, looking at data only from this month, Wineland said breakthrough cases now accounting for 33% of all cases, which Wineland said is “concerning.”
Wineland said even though breakthrough cases are on the rise, the vaccine is still the most effective tool against the virus because most of these breakthrough cases are either asymptomatic or showing mild symptoms. Wineland said none of the vaccines are 100% effective at stopping the spread of the virus, but that they are still highly effective at preventing hospitalizations and death.
Some community members are questioning which vaccine is seeing the highest number of breakthrough cases, but Wineland said that “presenting this number needs to come with a grain of salt.”
“There’s much more to the information than just the raw number,” she said. “A majority of (breakthrough cases) are Pfizer, but we’re also seeing breakthroughs with J&J and Moderna. We have to remember that the majority of our population is vaccinated with Pfizer. So it’s not a surprise that we’re seeing that.”
Currently, Wineland said the county’s local hospital system is not being impacted by these rising case numbers.
Wineland said that as long as people do not get vaccinated, the virus will continue to mutate and become more efficient and effective in spreading, and that the current data is evidence of this knowledge.
Moving forward, Summit county staff and elected officials agreed to push additional messaging stating people should get tested if they experience flu-like symptoms, even if they are vaccinated. When they do so, they should also self-isolate until their results come back. As of Thursday, July 28, the county’s positivity rate was almost 19%, meaning not enough people are getting tested when symptomatic.
“We’re not doing enough testing right now to identify everyone in our community that might be infectious, and so we need to really encourage everyone to utilize testing,” Wineland said.
During the meeting, the county commissioners showed support for extending the current public health order for another month. Wineland also encouraged the public to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new interim recommendations, which include wearing a mask in indoor public spaces if they are in an area of substantial or high transmission, including schools K-12. This recommendation applies to vaccinated individuals as well.
Wineland noted that the most common outbreaks are occurring at concerts, housing gatherings and bars.
For more information about vaccines and testing, visit SummitCountyCO.gov.
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