Eagle County enters ‘concerned’ COVID-19 risk level
Emergency management director predicts continued, sustained increase in local cases
Eagle County is officially concerned about the current COVID-19 risk level in the community.
This week, the county’s dashboard graphic reflects that change, moving from the “cautious” level to the “concerned” level. With that change, residents are urged to stay home whenever possible, except to access essential services. The county also urges everyone to minimize contact with people outside of your household.
“I don’t think this comes as a surprise to anyone,” said Eagle County Emergency Management Director Birch Barron during his weekly update to the Eagle County Board of Commissioners. He noted that for the past two weeks, the number of new COVID-19 cases in the community has been climbing, reflective of the pandemic’s global spread.
“This is a national environment we are in. We are experiencing, sort of at the front end like we did back in March and April, something that is part of a broader trend,” Barron said.
Testing lags, serious disease
It is now taking a whole lot longer to get back COVID-19 test results, not only in Eagle County but in locales throughout the United States. That lag time is causing breakdowns in other aspects of the COVID-19 response system. Barron noted its difficult to contact trace the illness when someone’s positive test results don’t come back for 10 to 14 days, especially since that same individual may have actually been infected a week or more before being tested.
The county’s five-day confirmed cases graphic is also impacted, he noted. Right now the graph shows a drop, from a high point of 73 new cases over a five-day period at the end of last week. As of Tuesday, Barron noted the count was 46 new cases over a five-day period but said that figure will adjust upward as test results become available.
“We expect to see a continued, sustained increase,” Barron said, noting there are currently results pending for more than 500 COVID-19 tests that have been performed in the community.
Barron also expects an increase in the local prevalence of serious COVID-19 cases. Right now, there no COVID-19 hospitalizations at Vail Health Hospital and only one local resident hospitalized outside of the county.
“But that doesn’t mean there isn’t serious disease here,” he said. Barron noted that there hasn’t been a jurisdiction affected by COVID-19 that hasn’t seen an uptick in serious cases that corresponded with an uptick in case numbers. So, even though EagleCounty generally has a healthier population than other areas of the country, Barron said the risk of serious local illness can’t be completely eliminated.
“It is not wise to make plans based on the idea there won’t be any serious disease here,” Barron said.
Barron stressed that the private, social gathering provision is one of the most vital aspects of the new county order.
“We have asked that people to gather in groups no larger than 10 people That is really important,” he said. “That helps make sure if you test positive, you have put fewer people at risk.”
“What are some of the small differences that apply to us with the new state order,” asked Commissioner Matt Scherr during Barron’s update.
There are two basic differences, Barron said. Eagle County had allowed people to go maskless while they exercised indoors at rec centers or health clubs, provided they maintained a 6-foot social distance protocol. The state order has nixed that county provision.
Additionally, the new state order requires people who are waiting in line for public transit to wear masks. While Eagle County has mandated mask-wearing while riding buses, it didn’t previously have a mask regulation at bus stops.
To learn more about the county’s public health order or to view the COVID-19 monitoring dashboard, visit ecemergency.org.
COVID-19 Community Forum
Eagle County’s One Valley Voice will host “Community Conversation: A Collaborative Response to COVID-19” on Thursday beginning at 2 p.m. The virtual forum will feature representatives from the business community, the medical community, school district, news outlets and local government.
Themes will include preparing for the school year and a successful 2020/21 winter season, and the actions needed by all businesses, organizations and individuals to get us there. Participants will discuss their efforts to balance public health concerns with community outreach, student needs and economic activity in the coming months.
The panel will be facilitated by Eagle County Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney. Panelists will include:
- Nadia Guerriero, Chief Operating Officer, Beaver Creek Resort
- Kristen Pryor, General Manager, The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa
- Dr. Brooks Bock, Chief Executive Officer, Colorado Mountain Medical
- Phil Qualman, Superintendent, Eagle County Schools
- Julio Jimenez, Reporter, Vail Daily
- Jeff Shroll, County Manager, Eagle County Government
The Community Conversation will be live-streamed at http://www.ecgtv.com, and at Facebook.com/OneValleyVoice, and in Spanish at https://www.facebook.com/MiSaludMiCharco. The event will also be broadcast on Eagle County TV, found on channel 18 on Comcast in the Eagle River Valley.
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