Summit County prepares for anticipated 2nd peak of coronavirus cases statewide in August |

Summit County prepares for anticipated 2nd peak of coronavirus cases statewide in August

People seek relief from the June heat under umbrellas in downtown Breckenridge on Wednesday, June 3. As the county reopens and tourism increases, county health officials are preparing for a anticipated second peak of cases in mid-August.
Liz Copan /

KEYSTONE — The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment released new modeling data Monday, suggesting the state will see another peak of novel coronavirus cases in late summer that could be more intense than was experienced in April. 

The state health department’s most recent modeling report reflects data from May. According to the report, cases will start to rise again Aug. 15. The severity of the second peak depends on how people act in the coming months, the report noted. 

The state’s data shows it’s not enough to just wear a mask; social distancing is still required to keep case numbers below hospital capacity.

In the report’s worst-case scenario, people would be social distancing at 45% capacity, causing a severe impact on the state’s hospital systems. Under that scenario, there would be more intensive care unit cases than the state can currently handle. If that percentage of social distancing is combined with few people wearing masks or face coverings, the state would expect see nearly 6,000 ICU patients, while Colorado has only 1,849 ICU beds, according to the report.

The modeling data’s best-case scenario would involve 65% social distancing, while adults over the age of 60 and others at higher risk socially distance at a rate of 80%.

The state also outlined a scenario that involves more people wearing masks or face coverings to prevent the spread of the virus. If 80% of people are wearing masks and everyone is socially distancing at 55%, the state won’t see a peak that overwhelms hospital systems. 

In Summit County, public health officials are already preparing for the anticipated peak in cases. 

“We will and are anticipating having another surge of cases,” Summit County Nurse Manager Sara Lopez said. “Contact tracing and surveillance is really a huge intervention that we are employing. Another thing with that is testing. Without testing, we don’t get a really big picture of what’s going on around the community.”

In the past few weeks, the county has hired six case investigators, who perform data analysis and contact tracing. When contact tracing, the investigators ask people who test positive for the virus about who they’ve been around, where they work and what their living situation is like to determine other potential positive cases. The county plans to hire six more investigators to combat the virus. 

“It’s kind of like putting water on little fires that are placed throughout the community,” Lopez said. 

The state does not yet have data examining the impact of contact tracing on the fight against the virus. 

As of now, the county doesn’t have a plan to do another major shutdown like the one communities saw in March and April, Lopez said. Instead, public health will closely monitor the virus and assess based on a number of benchmarks like cases among essential and health care workers and the number of hospitalizations in the county. 

“If we’re moving beyond some of these thresholds, considerations will be made to possibly implement further restrictions,” she said.

Lopez added that the county’s decision ultimately will be based on guidance from the state health department. However, the best thing people can do to prevent another shutdown is to continue practicing the measures that are currently in place. 

“We understand the impacts of this are unprecedented and, in some ways, draconian methods of placing an entire population in quarantine,” Lopez said. “We’re putting every emphasis on not having to do that again, but it really does take the community continuing to put an emphasis on getting tested when they’re sick, not going to work when they’re sick, wearing a face mask and face covering. The evidence behind that is very strong.”

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