Top 5 most-read stories last week: Omicron, affordable housing and TikTok challenge

Editor’s note: Stories in this list received the most page views on in the past week.

1. Omicron variant likely causing large surge in Summit County COVID-19 cases

COVID-19 cases are surging in Summit County, and Summit County Public Health Department officials think the omicron variant is the culprit. The variant accounts for 73% of all new cases nationally in the past week, according to news reports.

The public health department was notified of four positive COVID-19 cases Dec. 17. That increased to a total of 59 positive cases between that afternoon and the evening of Dec. 20. On Tuesday, Dec. 21, the department received 112 cases overnight — double the weekend cases.

That spike in cases is despite Summit County’s high vaccination rate. Currently, 98.3% of Summit County residents have at least one dose of the vaccine, and 82.2% are fully vaccinated, according to the county’s website.

— Jefferson Geiger

2. Why building affordable housing in Summit County is difficult

As Summit County and its leaders continue to puzzle out the complexity of the community’s lack of affordable housing, many community members suggest that building more units should be considered as a primary solution. But this is a convoluted problem that can’t be fixed with such a cut-and-dry solution.

Summit County Housing Director Jason Dietz gave a laundry list of reasons as to why. First, the community has little land to develop, making it difficult to get a project up and running. Not only that, but it’s also challenging to build up rather than out because of height limitations set by most jurisdictions.

Getting the numbers to work for an affordable housing project is tough, too. Developers usually use tenant rent payments to pay off the mortgage on a housing project, but when rents are set at a cap to meet the goals of a community, it leaves a gap in revenue.

To make the numbers work, developers compete for low-income housing tax credits. Gorman and Co. recently received one of those through the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority for Wintergreen Ridge.

— Jenna deJong

3. Summit School District warns families of threatening TikTok challenge

The Summit School District sent out a message warning families of posts on social media platform TikTok encouraging school violence and vandalism Dec. 17.

The district strongly encouraged parents and guardians to have conversations with students about the seriousness of social media posts suggesting threats, violence, vandalism and theft of school property. Students who are involved in this type of behavior will face consequences such as suspension, restitution, law enforcement referral and/or expulsion, according to the district’s message.

— Lindsey Toomer

4. The trouble with Mind Springs: Summit, Eagle counties are breaking from their mental health provider and others are taking notes

Summit County is hurting.

The suicide rate in this mountain community of 31,000 is higher than Colorado’s, which is one of the highest in the nation. And locals say almost everyone here has known someone — or several someones — who ended their life.

Local leaders have tried to reduce risk factors in a county where the cost of living is high, wages low and the hospitality and outdoor industries’ workforces young, hard-partying, transient and separated from support systems. They have sought to combat mental health stigma, which nearly 64% of residents here cite as the reason they don’t seek counseling or other treatment.

Now they are trying to root out what they see as another threat to the community’s mental health:

Mind Springs Health is the private nonprofit responsible for providing behavioral health safety-net services in Summit and nine other Western Slope counties. But a recent Colorado News Collaborative investigation found that many mental health treatment centers are failing to serve the most vulnerable Coloradans.

— Susan Greene, Colorado News Collaborative

5. Summit County ski areas plan additional terrain openings ahead of holiday weekend

As crowds streamed into Summit County ahead of the Christmas holiday, there was the promise of snow in the forecast.

But the area as a whole was still behind where it should have been in terms of snowfall, according to the National Weather Service almanac. And the Natural Resources Conservation Service put snowpack in the upper Colorado River basin, where Summit is located, at 72% of median.

Despite the minimal amount of snowfall, the majority of Summit County ski resorts are not far behind where they were this time last year in terms of open terrain and accumulated snowfall.

— Cody Jones

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