Eagle County poised for move to less restrictive yellow COVID-19 phase
Public health officials predict the move will happen on Wednesday or Thursday of this week
By mid week, Eagle County should be in the yellow stage of the state’s COVID-19 risk meter.
“That’s a pretty exciting capacity increase for restaurants and events,” said Eagle County Emergency Management Director Birch Barron during his weekly update Tuesday morning. “Our new cases have continued our steady, slow decline.”
With the county’s incidence rate — new cases per 100,000 residents — remaining in the yellow stage for one full week, the county will drop down to the yellow zone of the risk meter. That should happen by Wednesday or Thursday of this week, Barron said.
When the state moves Eagle County to the yellow level, indoor restaurant seating and indoor event venues can move to 50% of capacity. For weeks now, Eagle County has been at the orange risk level with indoor restaurant and entertainment venue capacity restricted to 25%.
The move to yellow also means county businesses become eligible for Colorado’s Five Star State Certification. Eagle County slated its first industry training for that program on Tuesday. A link to the local five star application will be available at eaglecountycovid.org.
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Assistant Eagle County Manager Kelly Collier noted that businesses won’t see immediate capacity limit increases if they successfully complete the five star program, but five star certification could benefit them if the county’s numbers spike again. At the yellow level, restaurants and events are automatically at the 50% capacity level, but if the county returns to the orange level, businesses that have completed certification can remain at 50% capacity instead of dropping to the mandated 25% capacity level.
Eagle County Public Health and Vail Health continue to work their way through the ranks of county residents who are eligible for vaccination. To date, 14,700 vaccines have been administered in Eagle County and more than 4,000 local residents have completed both doses. There are approximately 2,300 first dose vaccines available this week.
“We are really, collectively, making incredible progress with the latest group,” said Barron. “But there are still more people eligible for vaccine than there are vaccines in our county.”
Vaccination registration is now open to people age 65 and older and for local residents who work as educators. To register, visit eaglecountycovid.org and eligible residents will be assigned to clinics operated by public health or Vail Health. There are three clinics planned this week, Barron said.
Barron added that the clinic operators hope that by late February/early March, all residents who are registered, and eligible as part of the latest guidelines, will have received their first vaccine shot. Then, based on state approval, the vaccination effort can expand to the next phase, which includes front line workers.
“The really exciting thing about getting our population vaccinated … is we could see a higher level of disease result in a lower level of severe disease,” Barron continued.
Barron said that in Eagle County, people age 70 and older previously accounted for approximately 7% of new cases reported. That percentage has dropped to 0.5%. Barron said those figures indicate the local vulnerable population is getting protection from COVID-19.
“But we are not breathing easy, as far as seeing disease levels go up, until we have all the high risk people vaccinated,” Barron added.
As he looks at nearly a year’s worth of COVID-19 data, Barron noted the state’s COVID-19 numbers tell a nuanced and complex story. One of the takeaways is that Colorado, as a whole, has not experienced severe COVID-19 effects evenly. Expanding on that, Barron demonstrated how Eagle County has seen lower fatality rates than other parts of the state.
In illustration, Barron shared a graph from the state’s website that shows COVID-19 fatality rates per 100,000 people. In that analysis Bent County — which is located in eastern Colorado and has a population of 6,599 residents as of the 2010 census — has been the hardest hit area of Colorado. There have been 21 COVID-19 fatalities deaths in Bent County, which compares to Eagle County’s 20 fatalities — but because of its much smaller population, Bent County has a much higher fatality incidence rate.
“Twenty deaths in Eagle County is certainly not something to feel good about,” Barron said. “But Eagle County has managed to keep our disease levels, for the most part, away from our most vulnerable residents.”
To learn more, visit eaglecountycovid.org.