Eagle County officials still ‘concerned’ as local COVID-19 numbers start to plateau

While the rate of transmission has leveled off, the overall numbers are higher than what local officials want to see

A sign at the Eagle City Market front entrance notifies shoppers that they are required to wear face masks inside the building.
Pam Boyd/

Eagle County remains in the  “concerned” zone of its COVID-19 risk meter with public health officials noting that new case levels have appeared to plateau, albeit at a higher rate of infection than what they would like to see.

Eagle County Emergency Management Director Birch Barron presented his weekly COVID-19 update to the Eagle County Board of Commissioners Tuesday morning.

“This has been a rough couple of weeks as far as disease spread,” he said.

Barron said the numbers in Eagle County reflect the rising COVID-19 cases happening in the state and nation. He said there were 169 local cases reported over the 14-day period between July 11-24 and that equals an incident rate of 307 cases per population of 100,000.

“Our goal is to get that back down to 25 to 50 cases (per 100,000 population),” said Barron. “We need to learn to live with this disease, but keep it to a much lower level than it is now.”

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Transmission changes

Barron noted that a couple of weeks ago, around three-quarters of the people who tested positive for COVID-19 had a pretty good idea where they contracted the virus. That has changed.

“Now we are at almost 60% of people who don’t know where they got sick,” he said. Barron said that change demonstrates that a COVID-19 is active in the community at large.

“You are just as likely to get it from someone you don’t know as from someone you do,” he said.

Disease spread remains most active among frontline workers (service and construction industries) with initial exposure likely occurring at work and additional spread occurring within household or social groups.

Barron said last week saw a slight increase in serious disease numbers. Over the past 10 days, there have been three COVID-19 hospitalizations at Vail Health Hospital and one transfer to another hospital, but currently, there are no hospitalized cases. He added there has been an average of 32 daily outpatient respiratory visits per day over the past week.

“We are really happy to not see an acceleration of cases, to see a plateau going on,” Barron continued. However, he added that when cases initially started dropping in Eagle County earlier this summer, residents likely let down their guard a bit too low.

“We went back to normal versus to black diamond phase or blue circle phase,” he explained.  

The other positive news from this week’s briefing concerned testing. Barron said results are now generally availaiby in five to seven days, with some results coming back in as soon as three days. That’s about half the delay time for test results reported a week ago.

But even with the quicker turnaround, there is still a significant number of backlogged tests. Barron said there are 300 to 400 outstanding tests this week through Vail Health, down from around 500 to 800 a couple of weeks ago.

With the beginning of the school year on the horizon, Barron stressed that the community and its guests need to seriously adhere to the five commitments and slow the transmission of COVID-19 locally.

“We really need to look at making changes in our behavior,” he said.

Because, as Barron noted,  while local transmission has leveled off, the numbers are still too high.

“We are pretty concerned. This is a pretty good time to stay at home whenever possible,” Barron said.

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