Summit officials make plans to ease traffic ahead of next ‘megapod’ vaccination event
Last call pushed to 10:30 p.m., 11 p.m. for 5-star restaurants
Summit County is expecting another big week for vaccine distribution, and officials are working on ways to make the process more efficient and mitigate any impacts on the community.
Last week, the county hosted its first “megapod” at the bus barn in Frisco, one of Summit County’s largest vaccine distribution events to date with more than 1,200 doses administered to community members. But with traffic backed up onto Colorado Highway 9 from residents waiting to get their shots, officials are hoping to implement some new measures to reduce congestion and make things run a little more smoothly.
“We do know that we learned tons, especially with regard to traffic control,” Summit County Public Health Director Amy Wineland said during the Board of Health meeting Tuesday afternoon. “And we have already had several meetings, debriefings, hotwashes, etc., to identify where we can make improvements and make sure that is going to have the least amount of impact as possible on our community. We also know going forward we’re going to have to have these large pods available to our community. … It is something that’s going to be happening, especially once we get lots of vaccine coming to our community.”
The next vaccination drive-thru is scheduled for Thursday, March 11, when Wineland said the county is set to distribute about 1,200 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. But officials should be better prepared this time around.
Brian Bovaird, the county’s director of emergency management, said the county is working on new plans for signage and traffic routing, along with emailing packets to individuals with information on what to expect when getting vaccinated, including locations, waiting areas and reminders to have their forms printed out ahead of time to reduce delays.
“Our hope is that we’ll have a much more educated population of people that are coming to their vaccines, and some of that anxiety might be diminished with them being uncertain with where they need to go,” Bovaird said about creating the information packets. “We have made a bunch of modifications to our traffic and site plan. Last week … we were certainly expecting heavy traffic, but in reviewing all of our operations, I think we found a lot of ways that we’re optimistic will help with that traffic backing up onto Highway 9.”
Officials also approved a change to the county’s last call for alcohol during Tuesday’s meeting, pushing back the time patrons are allowed to have a drink on their table from 10 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., and 11 p.m. for restaurants operating under the 5 Star State Certification Program.
This weekend, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment released an amended public health order that went into effect Sunday. The amendment allows restaurants to push back their last call for alcohol to 1 a.m. in level yellow on the state’s COVID-19 dial and 2 a.m. in level blue, including those operating in level blue as part of the five-star program. While Summit officials did decide to push back the county’s last call, they decided to keep local restrictions tighter than those at the state level.
County Manager Scott Vargo said he’d been in conversations with town managers around the county on the topic and said they were supportive of moving to 11 p.m. but no later. Assistant County Manager Sarah Vaine said that in conversations with five-star restaurant owners, most said they’d prefer to wait until later this month to consider pushing the last call time any further.
“There were other businesses that are part of five star who just sort of had a little bit of an objection that we’re more restrictive than the state,” Vaine said. “… But the restaurants have been pretty consistent that they don’t want it to go late into the evening until spring break is over.”
Wineland agreed with the decision to cap last call at 11 p.m., noting that gatherings have continued to be a problem in the community.
“We really just don’t want to jeopardize going backward at this point,” Wineland said. “We’ve gone so far.”
Among the other changes, five-star certified restaurants and indoor events operating in level blue would be allowed to expand capacity to 225 people without using the state’s distancing calculator, and restaurants in level yellow could expand to 150 people. But with distancing restrictions still in place, such as 6 feet required between tables at restaurants, the adjustment likely will mean very little for most businesses in Summit.
On Tuesday Wineland also provided insight into how residents should interpret the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance for post-vaccine behavior.
According to CDC guidelines, Wineland said private, indoor gatherings are allowed without masks for up to two households as long as the parties received their second dose of vaccine — or first of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — at least two weeks earlier and as long as there isn’t anyone present with heightened risk of severe illness from COVID-19. She also said fully vaccinated people don’t need to quarantine or self-isolate after coming into contact with someone with COVID-19 unless they develop symptoms.
Summit County’s public health order allows the private gatherings of only 10 or fewer people from two households.
Wineland continued to say that many things won’t change for fully vaccinated people, who will still be asked to wear masks, avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, medium or large gatherings and traveling.
“We know that these three vaccines are almost 100% preventing hospitalizations and death, which is really exciting,” Wineland said. “We also know that other prevention steps help to stop the spread of COVID.
“We know that we have increased circulation of new variants happening. … We’re still learning how effective the vaccines are against variants. We’re still learning how well COVID vaccines keep people from spreading the disease, and we’re still learning how long vaccines can protect people. For those reasons, it’s really important to continue following the guidance from CDC going forward until we know more.”
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
In addition to health care workers, first responders and educators, people ages 60 and older, grocery store workers and people with two or more high-risk conditions are eligible for the vaccine. Educators and child care workers should ask their employer about scheduling an appointment, and those with high-risk conditions should look to their providers for appointments.
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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