Summit County works to keep public informed on COVID-19 as more visitors arrive
Summit County officials discuss strategies for preventing an uptick in cases over Fourth of July
KEYSTONE — As visitors flock to Summit County, public health officials continue to remind the community to stay vigilant in fighting the novel coronavirus.
At Thursday’s joint Board of Health and Summit Board of County Commissioners meeting, Public Health Director Amy Wineland spoke about the state’s timeline for applying to the protect-our-neighbors phase of reopening and the county’s concerns going into the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
Counties won’t be able to apply to the new phase, which allows all activities to operate at 50% capacity or up to 500 people, until July 6. Wineland said Colorado Gov. Jared Polis wants to get through the Fourth of July before allowing counties to open up with gatherings of 500 people.
“We did, in state, see an increase after Memorial Day,” Wineland said. “We really want to make sure people are being smart around these holidays and really sticking to their household members and maybe one other group of friends, otherwise maintaining those group sizes to pretty small numbers.”
In recent weeks, out-of-state visitors have been coming to Summit County to get away from dense urban life. Fourth of July will be no exception. In response, the county has issued communication campaigns to address the influx of visitors.
Public health spokesperson Nicole Valentine wrote in an email that the county has distributed 1,000 window clings to businesses with the “We cover our faces in public places” slogan to inform out-of-state visitors about the county’s rules.
At Thursday’s meeting, County Manager Scott Vargo said the county is also working on a plan to distribute door tags at lodging facilities and letters for short-term rentals that explain the “five commitments” to preventing the spread of the virus:
- I will maintain 6 feet of physical distance from other individuals.
- I will wash my hands frequently and thoroughly for at least 20 seconds.
- I will cover my face in public.
- I will stay home when I am sick.
- I will get tested immediately if I have COVID-19 symptoms.
An uptick in cases
Overall, the county’s case data has looked good. However, this week there has been an uptick in activity, Wineland said. Eleven additional cases of the virus have been reported since Monday, according to the county’s coronavirus webpage. Wineland said there also has been an increase in testing demand.
“We had 47 tests on Monday, 58 yesterday at (Centura’s Center for Occupational Medicine) and 71 so far today,” she said. “We are seeing an increase in need for testing. So we are definitely in a place of waiting right now to see where our data goes after the next couple of weeks.”
The number of tests don’t necessarily correlate to a number of positive cases either, Wineland said. People who test positive for the virus in Summit County but don’t permanently live here are not counted in the total number of cases.
The increase in cases also could have to do with a delay in testing results that the county and Centura experienced last week. The Colorado Department of Public Health’s lab was at full capacity for tests, which caused some people to have to wait multiple days to get results.
“This week, they’re back at their expected turn around times of 24-48 hours for results,” Wineland said.
Centura, which uses Labcorp, was also experiencing delays last week, Wineland said. The delays have been resolved at Labcorp, as well, she said.
Commitment to contact tracing
On Thursday, July 2, the county partnered with the Family & Intercultural Resource Center to educate people about contact tracing, which is the process of identifying positive cases and anyone who might have been exposed to those cases.
Lauren Gilbert, who leads the county’s contact tracing team, said it’s especially important for people to answer calls from unknown numbers as it could be a call from public health.
“Connecting with close contacts is the key to making contact tracing work,” she said. “It gives us informed information to keep your loved ones safe.”
Recently, the county’s contact tracing team was able to identify and quarantine eight people who were connected to an outbreak of the virus in El Paso County. Four cases were confirmed, seven were probable and 40 people were exposed during that outbreak at a summer camp.
“Really, as we wait for a vaccine or an effective treatment for COVID-19, contact tracing is just one of many important tools that we use for containing the virus,” Gilbert said in the live stream.
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