Summit County officials say they have not heard from the state about moving to level orange
Officials discuss vaccinating around inflexible work hours, individuals with access and functional needs
Summit County still hasn’t received word from the state that the community is headed to level orange on the state’s COVID-19 dial this weekend, but the area’s trends have continued to move in the wrong direction.
Public Health Director Amy Wineland provided officials with an update on the county’s COVID-19 situation during a joint meeting with the Summit Board of County Commissioners on Thursday afternoon, noting that Summit County’s numbers have returned to January levels over the past couple of weeks.
Summit County has had 154 positive COVID-19 cases over the past week, an average of 22 per day, according to Wineland. The county’s seven-day cumulative incidence rate is more than 403 new cases per 100,000 residents, well above the threshold for level orange. The county’s seven-day average positivity rate is at 10.31%, which falls in level red.
Despite spiking numbers, officials said they’ve yet to hear from the state that the county will have to move backward on the COVID-19 dial — a message they expected to get Wednesday. As officials hold their breath, the county did decide to extend its current public health order until the end of April.
“It was extended through April 30 with the understanding that we would likely make some other modifications prior to that, depending what happens with the dial, depending what happens with the state public health order,” said County Manager Scott Vargo. “… We talked a little bit about the fact that we are in level orange metrics, so if or when the state determines that we have to move to level orange, that would necessitate another change to the local public health order.”
Vargo noted that the county already has a new public health order drafted in case Summit County is forced to move to level orange.
The county’s younger population appears to be the main demographic behind the surge in cases, according to Wineland.
“We definitely again are seeing a large proportion of the 20-29 age group that’s driving our increases right now,” Wineland said. She continued to say that in the past week, there have been three outbreaks from social gatherings, three outbreaks at resorts and two outbreaks from food-service locations.
Wineland urged employers in the community to do whatever they can to support their employees staying home when sick, including offering sick leave and continuing to track symptoms at the workplace.
Assistant County Manager Bentley Henderson said the county has been in contact with the business community to determine what changes they’d like to see to restrictions once the state’s COVID-19 dial is removed, likely in mid-April. Restaurants largely pointed to three items that have caused conflicts between guests and staff recently: the two-household rule, spacing requirements between tables and contact-tracing efforts.
Henderson said businesses also pushed for the county to consider alternative metrics for restrictions once they have a higher level of control, including weighing things like hospitalizations more than cumulative incident rates. But Henderson also said the business community understood that the expiration of the state’s dial, which is expected to happen in mid-April, wouldn’t mean all restrictions would be lifted.
“These folks clearly understand that at the time when the dial should go away, or those kind of changes get made, that we do not want to make dramatic changes to the nature of how we do business,” Henderson said. “They recognize that there are going to continue to be issues that impact our ability to manage and fight the transmission of the virus and that we shouldn’t just throw the doors open, so to speak.”
At the meeting, Wineland spoke to the possible ramifications of dramatic changes to statewide restrictions, looking at different scenarios that could play out across Colorado based on the removal of the dial and mask mandate, and how strongly variant cases take hold.
She concluded that the longer the state waits to remove restrictions, the better.
“If both the dial and the statewide mask order are removed, and this leads to substantial changes in behavior because the perception is there is no more risk, then we could definitely peak in hospitalizations, in fact, above what occurred just a few months ago in December,” Wineland said. “…There’s definitely a much higher number of deaths if we do let go of both, and we do have that increase in variant transmission happening across the state, versus if we wait a month later … giving us more time to get that vaccination into the arms of our communities.”
Vaccination efforts are moving forward quickly. More than 50% of Summit County’s population has received at least one vaccine dose, and 27% have been fully vaccinated, according to data on the county’s website.
There were three major vaccination events this week, with one on Wednesday and Thursday and another scheduled for Friday. Wineland said there was also a neighborhood clinic in Dillon Valley on Tuesday, which vaccinated about 82 community members but had to turn 20 or 30 away. With Phase 2 of the vaccine rollout kicking off Friday, opening up eligibility to all adults ages 16 and older, officials said they are working to find more ways to inoculate individuals with access and functional needs as well as local employees who are unable to leave work for the day.
“We’re currently looking at another date to do more in neighborhoods where we know there’s lack of transportation,” Wineland said. “We’re working with the school to identify neighborhoods that have a high percentage of folks who qualify for free and reduced lunch. We’re doing some further analysis … on where folks who are getting vaccinated are living compared to where we’re seeing higher cases. That might also help drive particular communities for pop-up clinics. …
“We also know for our workforce, especially our workforce that is unable to have paid time off, we need to make sure we’re flexible and adaptable to doing pods in the evenings and after work to make sure that we’re offering this vaccine to anyone who’s eligible.”
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.
• 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.
• 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
Starting Friday, people ages 16 and older 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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