Harmon: Now more than ever, it’s time to get vaccinated
This summer we experienced a reprieve from the pandemic. We were able to travel, enjoy our favorite activities, and see family and friends. However, the pandemic is not over as the delta variant continues to spread in Eagle County and throughout the United States, reminding us that this virus and future variations of it will not be going away anytime soon.
Considering a path of coexistence will be important — understanding risks and taking precautions as necessary with less reliance on mandates or health orders except when absolutely necessary.
The highly transmissible delta variant is responsible for case increases in Eagle County over the past eight weeks. We are in yellow on the state’s COVID dial but have seen a slower and steadier increase as compared to the exponential increases of last summer and winter.
No increases in severity among children or vaccinated individuals have been observed. National data indicates higher rates of hospitalization for adults that are not vaccinated, but confirms hospitalization remains a rare event in children.
Getting vaccinated continues to be the best way to protect yourself. Although vaccines are not 100% effective, they prevent illness and reduce spread. More importantly, they prevent severe disease, hospitalization and death. Getting vaccinated is also the best way to protect children and youth aged 0-11, who are not yet eligible to receive the vaccine.
Participate in The Longevity Project
The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
As the pandemic evolves, and because of our higher vaccination rates, we continue to focus on disease management instead of crisis response. We have been reviewing the recent changes in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment guidance over the past week in the context of our own trends and experiences locally, as well as the social, emotional, and educational needs within Eagle County.
Here are the key takeaways from local data:
- COVID cases have been increasing, averaging nearly 12 new cases per day. We want to get this down to 3 cases or fewer per day.
- Since June 1, 233 covid cases have been reported — 6% among children 0-11; 11% among youth 12-18; 38% are among 19-39; 42% are among 40-69; 15% have been fully vaccinated with the remaining 85% not vaccinated or only partially vaccinated.
- Vaccination rates are relatively high — 85% of individuals 12 and older have received at least 1 dose and 76% are fully vaccinated.
- To date, the data does not reflect that the delta variant is more severe for children, at least as measured by the rate of hospitalizations. As we head into fall, it is important to note that influenza and common respiratory infections will be circulating as well. Co-infections with SARS-CoV-2 could present higher medical needs.
- We have not observed any spread associated with summer school or camps. This is not to say that children can’t spread it, but household or other high-risk exposures, especially among people that are not vaccinated, are causing the majority of illnesses among youth.
Public Health’s most important messages right now:
- Get vaccinated if you have not already; it makes a difference.
- Be prepared to have younger children vaccinated later this year.
- Stay home when sick and get tested. Learn more about testing at https://sites.google.com/eaglecounty.us/covidtestingsites
- Wash hands frequently.
- Be cautious. The CDC has updated its guidance for mask use while in public indoor settings for communities seeing higher transmission like Eagle County is currently.
- Masks are strongly encouraged for unvaccinated or immuno-compromised individuals.
- Be patient and compassionate with your fellow community members, regardless of their views on masks or vaccinations.
- Continue to visit EagleCountyCovid.org for updates in English and Spanish.
We believe we are in a much better place, but the pandemic is not over. For many individuals the threat of higher community transmission can create anxiety.
However, higher case numbers in the context of higher vaccination rates warrants a different yet still cautious response. We urge our residents to please err on the side of caution as they go about daily life, and strongly recommend that those who are hesitant about receiving a vaccine get theirs now.
Heath Harmon is the director of Eagle County Public Health and Environment.