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Cook: Preparing for what’s next

Since my last communication on March 18, where I made a plea to adopt social distancing, I want to thank the community for your active participation in demonstrating best practices, and I want to recognize Eagle County for creating ongoing public health orders to support this important component of our defense against COVID. Effective Thursday is a statewide stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Jared Polis, and we applaud him for taking this step. 

While I realize that there is an overwhelming amount of information that we are all seeing in the national and state media, I wanted to address a few of the frequent questions we are receiving here locally. 

Many community members have asked if we have peaked in terms of positive cases. For now, our positive local cases are increasing on a daily basis and we continue to screen and test patients at a steady rate. It would be irresponsible to predict a peak timeline because the situation is still unfolding as I write this.

In terms of what could happen, we can look at New York City for some insight. We also look to nations like South Korea to understand the discipline needed, without any draconian orders, to begin to overcome this virus. When we do peak, know that ongoing social distancing and stay-at-home behaviors will need to continue to keep our numbers from surging again. We will keep sharing our most accurate data with you as we go. 

What I can tell you with absolute certainty is that by following the Eagle County public health orders and the new state stay-at-home orders, we have a greater chance of reducing the impact of COVID-19 and helping to flatten the curve. Widespread community adherence will not only protect our health care workers but also save local lives. While I realize that staying at home is very disruptive to our normal daily lives and to our economy, if we continue to be disciplined to follow these public health orders, we will shorten the cycle of this awful virus. We are all in this together, and we will make it through this together. 

Testing for COVID-19 has been a challenge for this nation, state and county. The ability to use private labs as a complement to the state labs has allowed us to reduce our backlog of samples for testing from seven days to two days. Many labs are currently creating expanded testing capabilities that would allow for point-of-care testing in patients, allowing us to have real-time results.

Unfortunately, these capabilities are several weeks away from being implemented. In the meantime, we are still testing locally. Please call a primary care provider to be screened and see if testing is necessary for you.

If you do not have a provider, please call Colorado Mountain Medical at (970) 926-6340 and select option 2. We recognize the economic impact COVID-19 has had and will continue to have on our community, and we encourage those who lack health insurance or that may be having financial hardships to not let that prevent you from seeking care or being screened. We will work with you on free screening and testing. 

I would like to thank everyone in our community for the outpouring of support. I have been truly moved by this community’s response, and it humbles me. I am proud to call this valley my home. Groups have donated extra personal protective equipment, such as masks and gloves to our team. Thank you! PPE donations of N95 masks, surgical masks, gowns, eye protection, face shields, Nitrile gloves, disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer are being accepted at:

  • Vail Health Hospital (181 W. Meadow Dr. at the valet outside main entrance) 
  • Avon Urgent Care (30 Chapel Square, outside main entrance) 
  • Eagle Healthcare Center (377 Sylvan Lake Rd, outside upper-level entrance)
  • Gypsum Screening Center (410 McGregor Dr., outside the main entrance).

We are also building a ‘ways to help’ webpage on our vailhealth.org website to list ways to get involved along with local organizations to support during this time. 

Thank you for doing your part to #ProtectOurValley by adhering to the Eagle County and State public health orders.  Thank you for your patience and understanding. Please know that we are working 24/7 to keep our staff and community healthy through this journey. And thank you to all the frontline health care workers, first responders, law enforcement, government officials and employees, public works employees, grocery store employees, gas station employees, nonprofits, volunteers and many more for your hard work and dedication. You are greatly appreciated.  

Will Cook is the president and CEO of Vail Health.


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