Schools open and Eagle County’s COVID-19 meter goes green
Public health officials warn the next couple of weeks will be a big test for disease spread trends
A month ago, Eagle County residents were urged to up their COVID-19 precautions to ensure that the 2020-21 school term could launch Aug. 25.
Schools did open Tuesday and for the first time in weeks, Eagle County is in the green, or comfortable, stage of its COVID-19 risk meter.
That’s the place local officials want to to stay.
“COVID is not gone from our community, but we do have it contained,” said Eagle County Emergency Management Director Birch Barron during his Tuesday morning update with the county commissioners.
The next few weeks will be a big COVID-19 containment challenge, Barron continued. To keep the county in the green phase, Barron re-emphasized the importance of maintaining 6 feet of social distance and following the five commitments of containment.
“Kids are in schools now. It’s a whole new environment,” Barron said. “Keeping things in green is essential in making sure we have normality for those schools.”
Mostly good news
This week’s COVID-19 report was markedly more positive than it has been since early June.
The most recent data shows there have been 32 Eagle County COVID-19 cases reported over the past 14 days. “The number of new cases is looking very comfortable,” said Baron.
Only 4 percent of tests administered during that same two-week period came back positive. Additionally, testing turnaround times have stabilized, with most recent results reported back in three days or less.
There have been no COVID-19 hospitalizations at Vail Health during the past 14 days. “Hopefully we can continue to keep that severe disease away from our high risk population,” Barron added.
Local disease spread is the one trend that remains a concern, Barron said.
“We still do have community spread. Sixty-two percent (of new cases) do not know where they got the disease from,” he noted.
That’s a problem because when people can pinpoint where they were exposed, public health workers have good tracking data to reach out to people at risk of developing COVID-19. Working with these individuals gives the county the opportunity to limit further disease spread. But when people can’t say where they likely contracted COVID-19, the county can’t reach out to other potential cases.
The next couple of weeks will be an important community test for COVID-19 spread, Barron continued.
“The big roll of the dice here is that many students … are returning to school. What that represents, at the best, is uncertainty,” Barron noted. “We are really aware that it throws a lot of wrenches into something that has shown some consistency.”
Even as they acknowledged the new challenges, the county commissioners said that after weeks of concerning COVID-19 reports, the movement to green is a great accomplishment.
“I want to thank the community at large for getting us into the green,” said Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney. “I think kids are really excited to be back to school and I want everyone to thank a teacher, thank an administrator or thank a bus driver — those people who are going to provide those services in these very uncertain times.”
Commissioner Matt Scherr urged all county residents to do all they can to keep themselves, and their families, healthy as part of the COVID-19 response.
“I have always been a big no-flu-shot guy. Not this year. Everyone in my family is getting a flu shot this year,” Scherr said. “I encourage everyone to do that to keep our kids in school and keep our businesses open.”