Eagle County: Yellow doesn’t mean mellow on COVID-19 vigilance
Local disease incidence rate remains more than twice as high as state average
Eagle County is marking its first full week of 2021 in Level Yellow on the state’s COVID-19 dial, but local public health officials urge residents and visitors to stay vigilant if they want to continue the relaxed rules.
“We are seeing a continued decrease across the state of Colorado in new cases, which is very important,” said Eagle County Emergency Management Director Birch Barron during his weekly COVID-19 update. “People saw what was happening after the holidays … and made changes and we have seen the disease levels decline.”
“But I never have only good news,” Barron added.
After the first of the year, Barron said Eagle County’s disease numbers started a steady decline and pushed the valley from Level Orange, the high risk stage of the state’s risk meter, to the Level Yellow, the concerned phase. But that decline has now started to level off.
“We don’t want to see a level off at an average of 20 new cases a day,” said Barron, noting that the county’s incidence rate — the number of cases per 100,000 residents — is more than twice the state average.
Over the past week, 169 new COVID-19 cases have been reported in Eagle County.
Life at yellow
“The move to yellow is so important for so many reasons,” Barron continued. He noted that restaurants can move to 50% capacity and parents can attend sporting contest as two examples.
But now is not the time for the community to let down its guard.
“I do not want to come back to you and tell you we are going back to orange,” Barron said. “The move from yellow to orange was painful.”
Barron urged residents to double down on the five commitments of containment and hopefully move Eagle County to Level Blue, like many other areas of Colorado.
“Wear your masks. Be extra vigilant and be be a little more careful with your social interactions,” he said.
So far, Eagle County Public Health and Vail Health have administered 14,700 doses of vaccine in their coordinated effort. But that number isn’t expected to climb much this week.
“Moving into this week, we have not received confirmation of new vaccine shipment so we can’t schedule clinics yet. We hope this is just a weather blip,” Barron said.
Last week the county canceled a planned Feb. 20 clinic when weather conditions across much of the country interfered with its scheduled vaccine delivery. As of Tuesday of this week, the county had not received word about incoming shipments for this week.
“I expect we are out of luck this week,” Barron said. It’s a setback to a system that has been aggressively administering shots, he noted.
“We usually have only a couple of days from the time we are receiving vaccine until it is in someone’s arm,” he said.
Barron also noted that last week around 800 eligible residents participated in a drive through clinic held at the Eagle County Fairgrounds. Participants were generally able to drive up, register and receive a vaccination in approximately 20 minutes.
Barron said the vaccination eligibility remains unchanged this week — people age 65 and older and people who work as educators are included in the most recent group. The state will determine the timeline and composition of the next eligible population when there is sufficient vaccine to expand the program.
Registration for Vail Health and Eagle County clinics is accepted at eaglecountycovid.org or by calling 970-328-9750. Currently this is the sole avenue for vaccine registration in the county, but that may change.
Barron noted that at the national level there are programs in place to send vaccine to pharmacies across the United States. Walmart and Kroger (locally operating as City Market) are eligible to receive doses through this national effort.
“That’s a good thing, but it will inevitably make it a bit more confusing,” Barron said. He added that pharmacies will receive smaller vaccine shipments and must also comply with the state’s eligibility rules.
“If you find another (vaccination) avenue through a pharmacy … make sure it is legitimate and you are eligible through the system. Also make sure you are going to get a second dose,” Barron advised.
For additional information visit eaglecountycovid.org.