Eagle County pushes COVID-19 vaccination before variants catch up
As of this week, 42% of local population has received at lease one dose
Throughout the COVID-19 global pandemic, there have been two primary battles. One is the disease itself. The other is human nature.
That double threat is especially problematic now that we have entered the pandemic end game.
“We are fighting two things. We are working to get people vaccinated before human behaviors and variants catch up with us,” said Birch Barron, the county’s emergency management director, during his weekly address Tuesday to the county commissioners.
Eagle County remains in the Level Yellow “concerned” stage of the state’s COVID-19 risk meter. There were 139 new local cases of COVID-19 reported over the past seven days.
“We still have a lot of disease spread,” Barron said. “Eagle County has the third highest level of disease spread in the state, but our number of severe cases remains low.”
Statewide data shows that, this week, only Pitkin County and Summit County have higher disease spread figures than Eagle County.
Barron also noted that the county has 30 confirmed cases of the UK COVID-19 variant. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says this variant spreads more easily and quickly than other variants and may be more deadly. While studies are under way to confirm the finding, the CDC believes current vaccines provide protection against the new variants.
“We are running a race against time to get as many people vaccinated as possible before newer variants become widespread,” Barron said.
As of this week, 42% of Eagle County’s population has received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. “That is significantly higher than the national average,” Barron said.
To date, there have been 33,400 doses of vaccine administered in Eagle County and there are now 17,900 fully vaccinated residents in the county. Among the 70 and older age group, 87% of the county population has received at lease one dose of vaccine.
Barron added that over the past 14 days, no new COVID-19 cases were reported among county residents age 70 and older. Additionally, there have been no new cases for the past two weeks among fully-vaccinated residents age 60 and older. But there has been some disease spread among people age 60-69 who have received only one dose of vaccine or who received both doses but had not reached the full vaccination stage, which is two weeks after the second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the single shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“High risk social environments are where we are seeing the spread,” said Barron. “We are seeing a lot spread in high risk situations where some of the people in the group are fully vaccinated.”
On Monday, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announced vaccination for the general public, for people over the age of 16, can begin on Friday, April 2.
“People in that group are welcome to register for vaccination at eaglecountycovid.org,” Barron said, “but we will not being vaccinating that group locally until we have completed vaccination of the people on the wait list for the current group.”
He noted the county continues to learn, week-to-week, how much vaccine will be available locally. Last week 3,450 doses, including 3,000 first doses, were sent. This week, a much smaller shipment is anticipated. That means smaller clinics at Vail Health and through Eagle County Public Health are anticipated.
“The goal is to provide vaccination to the people who are at highest risk and unable to get to other clinics,” Barron noted.
One such effort at the Gypsum Recreation Center last week resulted in a large surge of local residents.
“We had to turn away 600 people last week in Gypsum,” Barron said. Residents’ desire to be vaccinated, combined with the erratic vaccine supply, resulted in that large crowd. He hopes to avoid similar situations as vaccination eligibility expands.
“Everybody just wants to know when they can get their shot,” Barron said. He wishes he could tell them.
“It depends on supply and there is very little predictability,” he noted.
Barron urged residents to remain patient for a few more weeks as the vaccination push continues. And, he added, there is a bright side to the the current situation.
“It is a positive sign that there is a lot of people locally, clamoring to get vaccinated,” he said.