Romer: What we know, and how we move forward
The challenges posed by COVID-19 have dramatically changed our lives, and while we have a long way to go, there are key learnings about COVID-19 and our continued response.
Since January, the local government, county, state, private business, nonprofits, and Vail Health have all been working closely. Eagle County continues to lead all other counties in the state with the most exemptions from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, due to our capacity and ability to control the virus in this community. All partners must continue to work together as a team to push forward.
We know that COVID-19 will continue to spread until there is widespread immunity, either through vaccination or acquired immunity due to contracting the disease. At this time, based on the serology (antibody) testing data, approximately 11% of our population has already had COVID-19. Herd immunity is not met until over 60-70% of the population has immunity.
The good news is that COVID-19 is controllable. With robust testing, immediate isolation of the infected, contact tracing, and follow up with those exposed, COVID-19 can be managed. This was demonstrated with the immediate control of COVID-19 at the Castle Peak nursing home, preventing any secondary cases and completely eliminating it from the nursing home within two weeks. Thanks to the great work of the Castle Peak, Vail Health, and Eagle County teams, no other outbreak within Colorado at any nursing home has been controlled so quickly or efficiently.
We continue to grapple with both the human and economic impacts of this virus even as the economy (slowly) reopens. Throughout this challenge, providing relief to our businesses and our citizens through advocacy and engagement with elected officials at the local, state, and federal levels has remained a priority.
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Employers have been forced to make hard decisions as they struggle to meet their financial obligations and have varied success in acquiring emergency support through federal relief programs. Our smallest businesses and key industry sectors like hospitality and tourism have been hit hardest by the pandemic, and even as we move forward a return to normal economic activity remains a moving target.
From a business advocacy standpoint, the primary focus has been to keep employers viable and employees on payroll. The more successful we are at keeping employers and their organizations viable, the fewer additional economic consequences there will be for families and our communities.
A second area of focus has been to help those employees who have been laid off so they and their families have the support they need until we can all get back to work. Unemployment continues to climb, with the latest Eagle County numbers exceeding 20%. The Colorado Workforce Center has a number of programs to assist, and we continue to push our federal officials for additional aid.
Personal responsibility is key to the continued manageable spread of COVID-19. If you become ill, speak to your health care provider immediately to get tested, and while you wait your test results limit your close physical interactions with others.
We all have a part to play moving forward. This includes complying with the requests of our local businesses as they work to navigate caring for their customers and employees. The bottom line is we all need to respect where other people may currently be in terms of their comfort level.
Eagle County will continue to lead the way forward thanks to leadership from numerous public and private partners. We will continue to support our first responders, our businesses, and our people as we navigate forward.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at www.vailvalleypartnership.com.
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