State to Eagle County: Bring down COVID-19 numbers or face tougher restrictions
County has two weeks to get numbers down or face the consequences
On Tuesday night, right as the polls closed in the Midwest and attention was squarely focused on early national election results, the state of Colorado delivered some sobering news to Eagle County.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment put the county on notice that it needs to reduce its COVID-19 numbers during the course of the next two weeks or locals will face tighter restrictions.
“The state told us our level of incidence is out of line with the level needed to maintain the restrictions we currently have,” said Eagle County Emergency Management Director Birch Barron.
The most recent information posted on ecemergency.org shows that over the past two weeks, Eagle County has seen 150 new COVID-19 cases. That translates into a two-week incidence rate of 303.3 cases per 100,000 people. That incidence rate puts the county squarely in the orange/high risk level of the state’s COVID-19 meter.
The goal is to reduce new cases back below 175 per 100,000 people so that state-imposed restrictions can be avoided.
In a press release issued Tuesday night, Eagle County noted the state government recommended tougher “mitigation and containment measures immediately.”
“The orange restrictions would hurt a bit,” Barron noted. “We still need to clarify a few things with the state. Is having a good mititgation plan, based on what we are seeing, good enough to keep us from going down to orange?”
As detailed in the Tuesday press release, the county noted a move to orange would mean additional capacity limits on restaurants, retail establishments, places of worship, gyms, group sports and events.
“Officials say this move is likely to have a significant impact on the local economy and social and emotional wellbeing,” the county release stated.
‘Within our control’
Eagle County’s case investigations show the area of biggest concern continues to be spread of COVID-19 during private gatherings and close, prolonged contact with friends, family and coworkers where masks are not being worn and social distancing is not being practiced.
“Those things are entirely within our control,” Barron said.
“If everyone, right now, looks very carefully at their out-of-household contacts and makes sure that we are keeping distance, meeting outside when possible, wearing masks and limiting the number of out-of-household contacts, then yes, we can turn this around,” he said. “If everyone makes those commitments today, we could see our numbers go down in time.”
At present, there is a high level of disease present in the community, Barron explained. Eagle County is not alone in that situation. COVID-19 numbers are on the rise across Colorado. And, Barron noted, hospitalization numbers are concerning statewide.
As of Wednesday, there were 925 COVID-19 hospitalizations in Colorado. Statewide, public health officials believe that by week’s end, the number of Colorado COIVD-19 hospitalizations will top peak numbers from March.
In Eagle County, there are currently six COVID-19 hospitalizations.
“I know the state is very concerned and Eagle County’s hospitalizations have gone up, although not at the rate of some of the other areas of the state,” Barron said
Beat the clock
Barron warned Eagle County residents that the types of activities that were acceptable when disease level was low now poise significant risk.
“If we are going into Thanksgiving and winter visitor season with the level of disease we have right now, that is a recipe for something bad to happen,” he said. “And it’s entirely preventable. That’s what hurts about this situation. It’s all in our control.”
“It will take all of us to turn the rate of infection around. It will not be just one thing we need to do. It’s not just masks, it’s not just social distancing.”
He referenced an illustration by an organization called Virology Down Under that shows how it takes several layers of effort to effectively manage the spread of disease. Efforts are like Swiss cheese. An individual effort won’t prevent the spread. It takes multiple layers of effort.
“This needs a community effort. If we are going to do it, we need to do it all together,” Barron said.
Residents with questions or feedback may email CovidQuestions@eaglecounty.us or call 970-328-9750.