Eagle County officials now ‘cautious’ about local COVID-19 risk | VailDaily.com

Eagle County officials now ‘cautious’ about local COVID-19 risk

There have been 52 new local cases over the past 10 days, mostly traced to household or social gathering contacts

Eagle County public health officials continue to rate the local COVID-19 risk as "cautious" but warn that the trend is inching toward "concerned."
Special to the Daily
  “Five Commitments of Containment”
  1. I will maintain 6 feet of social distance
  2. I will wash my hands often
  3. I will cover my face in public
  4. I will stay home when I am sick
  5. I will get tested immediately if I have symptoms

EAGLE — This was supposed to be the week when Eagle County took the next step in its transition trail map toward easing COVID-19 restrictions.

Instead, it became the week when local residents were reminded that COVID-19 is still a big part of our lives. As of Tuesday, there have been 52 new positive Eagle County cases reported over the past 10 days.

“We are seeing a bit more transmission within our community. We really want to communicate to residents and visitors that we are still in a pandemic,” said Heath Harmon, the county’s director of public health.

On Tuesday during testimony on Capitol Hill, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, expressed his concern about coronavirus spread nationwide. In Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis issued an order closing bars after a surge in COVID-19 cases. While Eagle County isn’t seeing the type of spikes reported in Texas, California or Florida, the rise in cases has prompted local county officials to move the COVID-19 risk level from “comfortable” to “cautious.”

With the cautious label, residents are advised to reduce contact with others and avoid any medium or large gatherings. Additionally, residents are urged to only visit businesses that are strictly following public health guidelines.

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Holiday weekend

The increased risk warning comes just as the county moves into the July 4 holiday, traditionally one of the busiest tourist times of the year.

“I think it’s important to think differently about the holiday weekend this year,” Harmon said.

He encouraged residents and visitors to be diligent about maintaining social distances, wearing face coverings and washing hands — detailed in the county’s list of Five Containment Commitments. 

“And, most importantly, stay home when you are sick,” he said.

Harmon stressed his safety message isn’t in conflict with efforts aimed at gradually bringing visitors back to the valley.

“I think it is really important to acknowledge that we are in a pandemic and there is no risk-free environment,” Harmon said. “It really doesn’t matter where you live.”

What does matter, he said, is that with the right precautions the valley can decrease the likelihood of exposure and make its way toward economic and social recovery.

Containing spread

During his weekly report to the Eagle County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday morning, Eagle County Emergency Management Director Birch Barron addressed the recent local COVID-19 spread. He noted that household exposure and exposure from social gatherings were the primary causes.

“New cases have increased over the past 10 days but have not doubled over a five-day period, so we are really containing spread and continuing to monitor,” Barron said. “That is certainly what we are hoping to see.”

During the past 10 days, there has been only one COVID-19 hospitalization at Vail Health, Barron said. Currently, the local health care system is in good shape he added.

Extensive testing is ongoing and Barron said roughly 8% of the tests administered reveal a positive case.

“That really shows us we are testing the right amount,” he said.

On the subject of testing, Harmon said the county’s expansive effort is an important part of its overall COVID-19 response. He urged people who experience symptoms to get tested.

“What we don’t want is there to be any stain or stigma around contracting COVID-19,” Harmon said.

It’s not March

Barron stressed the county’s move to cautious status isn’t a harbinger of a new shutdown order.

“The March situation was devastating and we know that our community cannot go back there easily,” he said.

Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry noted that people are expressing increased frustration with COVID-19 restrictions.

“People are getting tired of this,” she said, noting that local officials need to help residents understand that the COVID-19 pandemic won’t have a quick fix.

“We are all tired. It is really, really hard,” Barron responded. “But we all know how much we were hurting in March and April. Please help us to not go back there.”

Harmon concurred.

“We have been pretty fortunate in Eagle County in general. Our cooperation from the public has been pretty good. That said, we are seeing an increase in the (COVID-19) numbers,” he said. “It is important that we work as a community to slow the spread. We are not going to get rid of it all, but we want to slow its spread and protect the vulnerable.”

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