With COVID-19 cases widespread, Summit County officials struggle to pinpoint transmission trends
Summit County Public Health Director Amy Wineland said the county is currently compiling visitor testing data
Despite Summit County’s move to level orange on the state’s COVID-19 dial, health officials are urging the community to stay vigilant and avoid gatherings.
At a Summit County Board of Health meeting Tuesday, Jan. 19, Public Health Director Amy Wineland said the county is continuing to see more outbreaks among workers that are often the result of gatherings.
In the past, contact tracing has shown that gatherings among restaurant and ski area workers were driving cases. Now, the virus is so widespread that Wineland said officials aren’t seeing a direct correlation to a specific industry or group.
“We are not out of the woods,” she said. “We are not starting to see a trend down at this point. So we really need our community to continue to step up and dig deep and continue protecting ourselves and our neighbors for the next several months while the vaccine continues to be rolled out.”
As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 20, when the state last updated its COVID-19 dial dashboard, Summit County’s two-week incidence rate was at 797.2 new cases per 100,000 people. That number falls within level red and has been slowly increasing for about a week.
Wineland said if cases drop to level yellow or orange numbers, the county might have a better sense of how outbreaks are happening and whether the spread is taking place in the workplace or through gatherings.
“When it’s this widespread, we just can’t (know),” she said. “We’re just able to identify people who are positive and their close contacts and put them in quarantine, but it’s really hard to track who came first.”
Knowing that cases are increasing while the county remains open to visitors, officials are working to compile testing data from all three community testing sites to see how visitors might be impacting case numbers among residents.
The county has yet to release that data as it’s still being compiled. Wineland said she expects to have it available in the next few weeks.
Over the summer, data from Centura Health, which was the only entity providing community testing at the time, showed that visitors didn’t have an effect on cases among residents. However, that doesn’t mean the winter data will show the same thing, Wineland said, as there are many more factors at play this time around.
“What’s different now is that people are going indoors more,” she said. “We’re not congregating outside like we were. We have restaurants open where mixing of households happens to both visitors and residents.”
Wineland added that the state’s new COVID-19 contact tracing system called Dr. Justina will help gather more targeted information about transmission trends. The software allows the contact tracing team to gather more information about where a person went and what they did while experiencing symptoms.
The program is still too new to have any data collected from it, she said, but the county hopes to have that data available in a month or so.
Despite the fact that the nature of spread in the community makes it difficult for contact tracers to pinpoint exactly where new cases are coming from, commissioners pushed Wineland to gather more transmission trend data.
“It’s just hard, because if people, like I do, look at the outbreak trends, it really tells so little,” Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said. “Last week, there were maybe four or five outbreaks added, but they all had two or three cases. That’s hard to then translate to … how is that really impacting us?”
Commissioner Tamara Pogue said she’d like to see better transmission data, as well, which Wineland said is “nearly impossible” to provide considering how widespread cases are.
“Better data, more data, would be incredibly helpful, particularly as a new commissioner,” Pogue said. “If this is an issue of more financial resources or more capacity, I’m going to trust that you all will tell us that. It’s very, very difficult to make good decisions absent real data for our community about how this transmission is happening.”
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 in Silverthorne. No appointment, insurance or identification is required.
• Vail Health testing in Frisco: Testing is available by appointment from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays at the Speakeasy Movie Theater, 103 S. Harris St. in Breckenridge. To book an appointment, go to VailHealth.org/covidscheduling.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.
Now more than ever, your financial support is critical to help us keep our communities informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having on our residents and businesses. Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.
Your donation will be used exclusively to support quality, local journalism.