As vaccine nears, Eagle County officials continue to stress vigilance
’We can’t use this as a reason to take our foot off the pedal’
As he was delivering his weekly update to the Eagle County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, Emergency Management Director Birch Barron noted an exercise was underway to test the delivery system for the COVID-19 vaccine.
“For the first time in what feels like quite a while, I have some good news paired with some not-so-good news,” Barron said. “Vaccination plans are fully starting to move forward and vaccine will be in our county very soon.”
Eagle County health officials hope that by mid 2021, a full-fledged vaccination program will be in place to provide protection against the global pandemic that has infected more than 15 million Americans.
“We know there is really no way out of the pandemic without a vaccine,” Barron said. “It is really fantastic news that we are talking about a way out. But we can’t use this as a reason to take our foot off the pedal.”
Still in orange
Eagle County remains in the orange stage of the state’s COVID-19 risk meter. There have been 491 new COVID-19 cases reported in the county over the past two weeks and the county’s death toll now stands at 12. The latest recorded fatality was an Eagle County man in his 70s who died in November but was originally reported as a visitor, not a resident.
Barron noted that Eagle County, just as 60 of the 64 counties in the state, remains at the red level for COVID-19 incidence. But over the past eight days, the county has seen a decrease in the number of residents hospitalized with the disease. Statewide, the last two months have seen a surge in hospitalizations, he said.
As cases of serious illness climb, so does the number of fatalities, Barron continued. Currently, Colorado is seeing an average of between 37 to 40 COVID-19 deaths per day.
“That is higher than even back in March, when we had a lot less knowledge about how to keep people safe from this disease,” Barron said.
Barron repeated his message from one week ago — a post Thanksgiving surge of cases, on top of already high disease levels, has put community members at the highest risk of being exposed to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
Back in the late summer and early fall, Barron said that the people who contracted COVID-19 likely did so because they were employed in a job that meant an increased level of contact with other people or because they engaged in high-risk behaviors.
“As disease levels started to go up, we started to see a change,” he said. “More people started getting sick from smaller gatherings — those activities that were pretty safe in the summer.”
“Ultimately where we are at now … is what we are seeing is an increasingly high level of community spread,” he said. “We are also seeing more impacts on our businesses and our economic sector and our role as a county is not to just treat disease.”
Ultimately, successful prevention of COVID-19 spread is also an economic recovery plan. That’s why the county is so invested in a comprehensive vaccination program. A presentation of that plan can be viewed at eaglecountycovid.org.
“We need to use this positive news to buckle down and get where we need to be,” said Barron. “We are at a really critical tipping point.”
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