Eagle County health officials amp up current COVID-19 trend concerns
Number of local cases is on the rise, mirroring conditions at the state and national level
Eagle County public health officials say its time for local residents to get concerned about the current level of COVID-19 spread in the community.
That message isn’t meant to alarm or panic anyone, but it is meant to get residents’ attention.
“There’s not a lot of favorable news this week for our county, the state or the whole country,” said Eagle County Emergency Management Director Birch Barron during his weekly update to the Eagle County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday. “What we are really concerned about is not just this local trend but that this local trend is part of the larger state trend. We are really seeing an increase across most states in the country.”
While Eagle County is part of this larger COVID-19 picture, Barron stressed there are several factors in play locally that mean residents need to up their prevention measures. Otherwise, he noted, important community institutions will be disrupted and the upcoming ski season could be impacted.
School quarantines on the rise
In illustration, Barron pointed to COVID-19 quarantines affecting local schools. He said that during the six weeks that passed between the start of thee school year to mid-October, an average of one classroom a week was subject to a COVID-19 quarantine. During the past two weeks, four classrooms have been impacted and as students return from fall break, when families may have traveled to places seeing virus outbreaks, those numbers are expected to increase. That’s bad news for the county as a whole, Barron said.
Having kids quarantined doesn’t just affect a particular classroom, Barron explained. It impacts students’ families and, by extension, it impacts the businesses where parents work. He said each quarantine contributes to general instability in the county, which can result in an unstable local economy.
“That disruption we see in schools, that’s the same pattern we are seeing in our businesses,” Barron said.
By the numbers
During the past two weeks, Eagle County has seen 86 COVID-19 cases and while the county is still in the yellow/cautious stage of the state’s risk meter, the per capita infection rate is 112.6 per 100,000 people.
“We aim to keep that down at the blue level, just 75 cases per 100,000 people,” Barron said.
The number of local COVID-19 hospitalizations remains low, with just two patients at Vail Health during the past 14 days.
But the biggest area of concern locally relates to reporting. Barron said 58% of new calls could not or would not share information about known exposure to someone with illness of confirmed COVID-19.
“What all of us need to be doing is telling our friends and coworkers ‘If you are exposed, give them my name,’” Barron said. “We want to have people talk to their neighbors and their friends and their coworkers about how important it is to take this seriously.”
Barron likened this week’s COVID-19 message to a tornado warning. An official alert is only as effective as people’s response to it, he explained. If people look around and see no one is springing into action in response to an alert, then the notification isn’t helping.
“We will continue to tell people this (the current COVID-19 trend) is getting concerning,” he said. “When you get those messages, you need to make sure that the people around you, the people in your sphere of influence, know this message is important to you.”
Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney noted that as the holiday season approaches, people need to consider changing their gathering plans to ensure COVID-19 trends stay in check.
“We have to think about our behaviors,” she noted.
“We are a tourism economy,” offered Commissioner Matt Scherr. He noted that as people consider taking a trip this year, disease levels at various destination locations will be one of the items they consider.
“Even if it (a rise in COVID-19 cases) doesn’t shut down business here, it will affect our desirability as a destination,” said Scherr.
Barron agreed. “People want to make sure that Eagle County is a safe, healthy place for them to visit.”
To view the most recent local COVID-19 information, visit ecemergency.org
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