As vaccination rate grows, Eagle County sees big drop in new COVID-19 cases
Two weeks ago, the county saw 71 new cases but this week that number has dropped to 25
As he delivered this week’s COVID-19 update, Eagle County Emergency Management Director Birch Barron noted some local residents thought the county was failing to update its disease case numbers.
It wasn’t neglect, he said. It is reality.
“This is really tied closely to our community’s acceptance of the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Barron, noting that Eagle County has one of the highest vaccination rates in Colorado.
Over the past week, there were 25 new COVID-19 cases reported in Eagle County. That figure compares to 51 new cases last week and 71 new cases two weeks ago. Barron said that between March 1 and April 5, there were more than 25,000 doses of vaccine administered in Eagle County and the effects of that push are now visible in the decreased disease spread numbers.
Currently, 59.8% of the county’s total population has received at least one dose of vaccine. Earlier this month, the county set a 60% vaccination target as the threshold for lifting its emergency declaration and public health orders.
“We are really close to hitting that target,” Barron said. “The vaccine has done what we thought it would do — a reduction in cases. … We couldn’t have gotten there without our community’s involvement and real buy-in.”
Reservations are no longer required for vaccination clinics and information about clinic locations and times can be found at eaglecountycovid.org.
As the end for the county’s emergency phase of the COVID-19 pandemic comes into view, Barron noted that local residents will still be subject to state and federal restrictions. Additionally, local businesses can determine their own operating policies after the county restrictions are rescinded.
“At least at the local level, it’s a really exciting return to normal we are looking forward to in May,” Barron said.
As he talked about the next steps for the county’s COVID-19 response, Barron also offered some retrospective thoughts.
“This is a chance to look at what our path would have looked like if we had made different choices,” he said.
Barron noted that 22 Eagle County residents died from COVID-19. But, if the county’s death rate per capita matched figures from Florida, there would have been 89 fatalities. The Texas fatality rate would have meant 92 local deaths and the Mississippi death rate would have resulted in 132 local deaths. Barron added that in eastern Colorado, in a region with a population similar to Eagle County, there has been 161 COVID-19 fatalities.
“I can’t imagine what our community would be going through now to have that level of loss,” Barron said.
“There is no question this has been a difficult year,” he continued, citing community tragedies that included avalanche deaths, a child drowning in the Eagle River, large forest fires and more on top of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This has been a really, really hard year. How people respond in times of crisis tells you a lot about them and a lot about the community,” Barron said.
Emergency orders opposition
With the county set to rescind its emergency declaration on May 27, during Tuesday’s meeting a group of local residents voiced the assertion that local COVID-19 public health orders should never had been instituted in the first place.
Heather Bergquist said mandated mask orders have been detrimental to the well-being of local children.
“The use of masks has taught my healthy daughter that she is toxic to the world around her,” Bergquist said.
“Quarantines restrict the sick. Tyranny restricts the healthy,” said Andrew Osborne.
Michelle Morgan voiced her conviction that the county’s narrative regarding COVID-19 has not been accurate.
“It is long overdue for you to stop spreading this fear-based campaign,” Morgan said.
Commissioner Matt Scherr thanked the community for coming out to share their view.
“We understand there will always be differences of opinion,” Scherr concluded.