Summit County fights the delta variant with community vaccination events and more testing sites
The community’s incidence rate still remains above 200 cases per 100,000 people
“(I) certainly didn’t imagine we’d be talking so much COVID at this time.”
Those were the words of Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence during a joint Summit Board of County Commissioners and Board of Health work session meeting on Tuesday, August 24.
According to Summit County Public Health Director Amy Wineland’s most recent presentation, the community’s case numbers are quickly climbing. In June, the county had 23 confirmed COVID-19 cases. In July, it had 194, and so far in August the county has confirmed an additional 250.
What used to be monthly Board of Health meetings are now held every two weeks, as the delta variant continues to cause a spike in the community’s cases.
A closer look at the delta variant
During her update, Wineland reiterated what many national experts are saying about the delta variant: It’s causing a spike in cases nationally, as well as an increase in hospitalizations and deaths. The strain continues to mutate into new formations, some of which are being called “delta-plus.”
“Delta-plus includes (a) little bit different strains of the delta variant,” Wineland said. “They’re called AY.1, AY.2 and AY.3 … and they’re not enough to be their own separate variant, but they are tweaks to the delta variant that are now considered concerning. This AY.3 right now is the one the state is really starting to watch. The mutation in this particular strain is one that they believe will cause a higher viral load, which means it might even be more contagious.”
Wineland said her department plans to start updating the county’s website to show how many cases of these new versions are within the county. She said there are currently three confirmed cases of delta-plus variants in Summit County.
Currently, all tests, except for the Binax at-home tests, are being sequenced, meaning they’re tested for various strains.
According to Summit County’s website, the community’s average daily incidence rate for the past seven days is 243 cases per 100,000 people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, incidence rates between 50 and 99 indicate substantial transmission levels, while a rate above 100 indicates high transmission levels.
A new vulnerable population
Wineland noted that this virus is different from strains seen in 2020 because it’s impacting different demographics, particularly children under 12 years old. Children younger than 12 are not yet eligible to be vaccinated, and Wineland said because of this they are “getting swept away in this wave.”
“What’s really important to understand is our (intensive care unit) bed capacity for pediatrics is much less than what it is for adults,” Wineland said. “What’s critical about that is that we need to think about it as far as staffed ICU beds for the pediatric population, because caring for the pediatric population is a specialty.”
Wineland noted that the hospital is not nearing its surge capacity and said that the county’s decision to implement a mask mandate in schools for the time being will add to this demographic’s protection. Wineland said that her department is hoping that a portion of this population will be eligible to receive a vaccine come late fall.
A lag in testing
During the meeting, Lawrence brought up that many individuals who are getting tested are reporting that it’s taking three to four days to get their results back. Wineland said this is because the labs are receiving an influx of samples, and with that comes longer wait times. She also said the lab used by Mako — one of Summit County’s testing providers — is not located in Colorado.
“They’re collecting samples from other places across the nation, and the more samples sent to be processed at the lab — depending on what time they get there, how many are in that group to be sequenced and tested — it is going to take longer,” Wineland said.
Wineland reminded attendees that while waiting for a test result, it’s crucial that people stay home and isolate themselves, especially if they have symptoms. To hopefully speed up the process — and because the community has a high incidence rate — the county’s public health department collaborated with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to set up two temporary testing sites. One is located at 880 Airport Road in Breckenridge, and the other is located at 448 Fourth Street in Silverthorne.
For more information on testing sites, visit SummitCountyCO.gov/testing.
While Wineland noted that the community did a “fabulous” job vaccinating its residents, the influx of visitors during a busy summer tourist season has diluted the county’s vaccination rate. According to the county’s website, about 80% of Summit County’s residents are fully vaccinated and about 89% have received at least one dose.
The Food and Drug Administration recently gave its full stamp of approval for the Pfizer vaccine, and Wineland said she hopes this will encourage additional community members to get a shot.
In addition to the county’s weekly vaccination clinics, Wineland said her department is coordinating events with both Dillon and Silverthorne to increase access to the vaccine.
The Dillon Amphitheater is hosting concerts on Friday, Aug. 27, and Saturday, Aug. 28, where the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will park its vaccination bus and offer $100 Walmart gift cards to those who participate. The county’s public health department will also be at Silverthorne’s First Friday event on Sept. 3 to offer vaccines.
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