Summit County officials worry ‘irresponsible behavior’ will lead to more COVID-19 restrictions
KEYSTONE — Rising case numbers in Summit County are the result of “irresponsible community behavior,” Public Health Director Amy Wineland said at a Board of Health meeting on Thursday, Oct. 15.
On Monday, Oct. 12, Summit County’s novel coronavirus case numbers surpassed the threshold for the county’s current level of reopening, safer-at-home Level 2: Concern.
The state determines a county’s level of reopening — that is level of restrictions — by looking at the number of positive cases per 100,000 people. The county’s current data shows that there are 193.7 cases per 100,000 people.
If that number doesn’t drop below 175 per 100,000 in the next 11 days, the county will be moved to Level 3 of the safer-at-home phase of reopening, which is labeled as “high-risk.”
“If we aren’t able to improve our numbers in two weeks we will have a consultation with (the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment) to discuss whether we need a bit more time to get our numbers under control, or whether we will be moving into that high-risk Level 3 category,” Wineland said at Thursday’s meeting.
Level 3 would mean that restaurants, offices and places of worship will move from 50% to 25% capacity, according to the state website.
The increase in case numbers isn’t specific to Summit County. Across Colorado, both case numbers and hospitalizations related to the virus are on the rise.
While the majority of cases are among people age 20-29, officials are still concerned about the virus spreading to more vulnerable populations, like the elderly.
“We know that the main drivers of these numbers and cases are the 20-29 year olds, but over time — if cases continue to rise like they have been — we will see that spread to our most vulnerable population,” Wineland said. “As a result, those at higher risk for severe illness will impact our hospitalizations.”
Wineland said it’s imperative for people to continue following the county’s six commitments for containment, which are as follows:
- Wear a mask
- Wash your hands
- Stay 6 feet apart
- Stay home if you are sick
- Get tested if you are sick
- Get a flu shot
Lately, public health has heard of more and more people going to work when they feel sick, attending gatherings of more than 10 people and not wearing masks, Wineland said.
“Yes, we have the ability to work and do the contact tracing, but if our cases continue to go the direction we are, we’re really at risk of moving back to a more restrictive level and lower capacity limits in areas of our community that we really can’t afford to do with our economy,” she said.
If people don’t start taking the virus more seriously, the upcoming ski season is on the line, Wineland said.
The state released draft guidelines for ski areas on Wednesday, Oct. 14. According to those guidelines, local ski areas will have to work closely with the public health department throughout the ski season.
According to the guidelines, ski areas will be required to have everyone wear a mask, with exceptions for when people are eating, drinking and actively skiing or snowboarding.
The ski areas will also have to maintain physical distancing requirements by keeping crowd sizes low and implementing capacity limits on gondolas and lifts. While the state is not requiring capacity limits on the mountain, it is encouraging ski areas to implement reservation systems and other crowd control techniques.
However, if cases continue to rise as they are in Summit County, all of that planning for the ski season could be for nothing, Wineland said.
“It’s a huge concern,” she said. “We have two choices, we can come together and practice those six commitments … or we can jeopardize our ski season and our economy again.”
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