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Brush Creek Elementary staff member tests positive

Brush Creek Elementary School sent COVID-19 notices Thursday after learning that a staff member tested positive for the virus.

Two additional support staff members were also directed to quarantine, and no students will need to quarantine as a result of the positive case, Eagle County Schools said.

The district reminds people that the following critical practices remain essential to containing the virus for the rest of the school year:

  • If your child is sick, please keep them home.
  • If your child has symptoms consistent with COVID-19, please seek the medical advice of a doctor and have them tested.
  • If someone in your household is being tested for COVID-19, please keep your children home until the results are known.
  • If someone in your household is positive for COVID-19, the entire household must quarantine and not leave the home.
  • If you or a student are directed to quarantine, they must remain home, stay away from others, not go to work or school, not have playdates or sleepovers, and not engage in extracurricular activities.

Red Hill Elementary sends quarantine notices

Red Hill Elementary School sent COVID-19 notices Wednesday after learning of a student testing positive, with 14 students directed to quarantine as a result, Eagle County Schools said.

The positive case was last in school on Tuesday. Schools resumed this week following a February break.

The district reminds people that adhering to the following critical practices remains essential to containing the virus for the rest of the school year:

  • If your child is sick, please keep them home.
  • If they have symptoms consistent with COVID-19, please seek the medical advice of your family’s physician and have them tested.
  • If someone in your household is being tested for COVID-19, please keep your children home until the results are known.
  • If someone in your household is positive for COVID-19, the entire household must quarantine and not leave the home as directed by public health.
  • If you or a student are directed to quarantine, they must remain home, stay away from others, not go to work or school, not have playdates or sleepovers and not engage in extracurricular activities.

Eagle County: Yellow doesn’t mean mellow on COVID-19 vigilance

Eagle County is now in the yellow phase of the state’s COVID-19 risk meter, which means lightened restrictions. However, local public health officials stress the importance of having residents and visitors continue mask wearing and social distancing.
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Eagle County is marking its first full week of 2021 in Level Yellow on the state’s COVID-19 dial, but local public health officials urge residents and visitors to stay vigilant if they want to continue the relaxed rules.

“We are seeing a continued decrease across the state of Colorado in new cases, which is very important,” said Eagle County Emergency Management Director Birch Barron during his weekly COVID-19 update. “People saw what was happening after the holidays … and made changes and we have seen the disease levels decline.”

“But I never have only good news,” Barron added.

After the first of the year, Barron said Eagle County’s disease numbers started a steady decline and pushed the valley from Level Orange, the high risk stage of the state’s risk meter, to the Level Yellow, the concerned phase. But that decline has now started to level off.

“We don’t want to see a level off at an average of 20 new cases a day,” said Barron, noting that the county’s incidence rate — the number of cases per 100,000 residents — is more than twice the state average.

Over the past week, 169 new COVID-19 cases have been reported in Eagle County.

Life at yellow

“The move to yellow is so important for so many reasons,” Barron continued. He noted that restaurants can move to 50% capacity and parents can attend sporting contest as two examples.

But now is not the time for the community to let down its guard.

“I do not want to come back to you and tell you we are going back to orange,” Barron said. “The move from yellow to orange was painful.”

Barron urged residents to double down on the five commitments of containment and hopefully move Eagle County to Level Blue, like many other areas of Colorado.

“Wear your masks. Be extra vigilant and be be a little more careful with your social interactions,” he said.

This map from the state of Colorado’s COVID-19 website shows risk meter levels throughout the state.
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Vaccination

So far, Eagle County Public Health and Vail Health have administered 14,700 doses of vaccine in their coordinated effort. But that number isn’t expected to climb much this week.

“Moving into this week, we have not received confirmation of new vaccine shipment so we can’t schedule clinics yet. We hope this is just a weather blip,” Barron said.

Last week the county canceled a planned Feb. 20 clinic when weather conditions across much of the country interfered with its scheduled vaccine delivery. As of Tuesday of this week, the county had not received word about incoming shipments for this week.

“I expect we are out of luck this week,” Barron said. It’s a setback to a system that has been aggressively administering shots, he noted.

“We usually have only a couple of days from the time we are receiving vaccine until it is in someone’s arm,” he said.

Barron also noted that last week around 800 eligible residents participated in a drive through clinic held at the Eagle County Fairgrounds. Participants were generally able to drive up, register and receive a vaccination in approximately 20 minutes.

Eagle County residents eligible for COVID-19 vaccination line up for a recent drive by clinic held at the county fairgrounds.
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Barron said the vaccination eligibility remains unchanged this week — people age 65 and older and people who work as educators are included in the most recent group. The state will determine the timeline and composition of the next eligible population when there is sufficient vaccine to expand the program.

Registration for Vail Health and Eagle County clinics is accepted at eaglecountycovid.org or by calling 970-328-9750. Currently this is the sole avenue for vaccine registration in the county, but that may change.

Barron noted that at the national level there are programs in place to send vaccine to pharmacies across the United States. Walmart and Kroger (locally operating as City Market) are eligible to receive doses through this national effort.

“That’s a good thing, but it will inevitably make it a bit more confusing,” Barron said. He added that pharmacies will receive smaller vaccine shipments and must also comply with the state’s eligibility rules.

“If you find another (vaccination) avenue through a pharmacy … make sure it is legitimate and you are eligible through the system. Also make sure you are going to get a second dose,” Barron advised.

For additional information visit eaglecountycovid.org.

Eagle County moves to yellow level COVID-19 restrictions Friday morning

Colorado’s dial framework has six color levels to provide guidance to counties. Eagle County, on Friday morning, will be transitioning from the orange, high risk, level on the dial to the yellow, concerned, level.

Eagle County will move to the yellow level of the state’s COVID-19 dial effective at 6 a.m. Friday.

The change means there will be less restrictive regulations for indoor dining and events and requires updates to the local public health order.

State guidelines for the yellow level are available on the website for the Colorado Department of Health and Environment. Local officials also remind community members that while local public health agencies have the ability to add local restrictions, they do not have the discretion to be less restrictive than state orders.

The transition to yellow means indoor capacity at restaurants will increase from 25% capacity to 50% capacity, and 50% capacity will be allowed for spectators at sporting events.

While the move to yellow level has benefits to some business operations, public health officials continue to stress the ongoing need to take precautions to further decrease the spread of COVID-19, the county announcement said

“This is not the time to let our guard down,” said Heath Harmon, director of Eagle County Public Health and Environment. “We are moving to a less restrictive level on the state’s dial because of our good habits. We are also making excellent progress on getting vaccinations into the community. There’s a lot to be hopeful for right now, and we encourage everyone to keep up the good work.”

All community members are encouraged to read the state and local public health orders in their entirety.

Updates on the county’s response to COVID-19 are being shared at www.eaglecountycovid.org. The county’s forum for community discussions is at www.facebook.com/OneValleyVoice.

While changes benefit restaurant seating, it does not change the personal gathering size limit, which is the same in yellow as it is in orange — up to 10 people from no more than two households.

Last call at restaurants will move from 10 to 11 p.m. under the yellow, concerned, phase of the dial. Restrictions on offices are also easing, going from 25% to 50% of office capacity — with working from home still recommended.

Dial fast facts

  • Colorado’s dial framework has six color levels to provide guidance to counties.
  • Counties can move back and forth between levels, depending primarily on three metrics.
  • Levels are based on the number of new cases, the percent positivity of COVID-19 tests, and the impact on hospitals, as well as local considerations. As the dial moves left, toward Protect Our Neighbors, more people can participate in various activities.

This framework is designed to give communities a tool to make life in the pandemic more sustainable.

COVID-19 tracker: Eagle County updates

The Vail Daily custom tracker is currently under maintenance.

More information on coronavirus

Colorado’s governor wants a big, fast coronavirus stimulus package. State lawmakers worry about the details.

As the Colorado legislature returns to work on Tuesday, the No. 1 priority for Gov. Jared Polis and Democratic lawmakers will be passing an economic stimulus package to help lift the state out of the effects of the coronavirus crisis.

But the question of how big the package should be and how fast the General Assembly should move to pass it remain sticking points. That’s not to mention questions about where the money should be spent.

Polis wants lawmakers to act fast and allocate at least $1 billion to the recovery in a way that “builds Colorado back stronger” through “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects. That includes repairs to the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnels, building new wildlife migration corridors and expanding rural broadband access.

“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity,” said Polis, a Democrat, promising that thousands of jobs would be created.

On the flip side are lawmakers who are anxious about how much money will actually be available to spend. They are advocating for more of a wait-and-see approach, anticipating that a congressional aid bill could change their plans.

Read more from Jesse Paul and Thy Vo, The Colorado Sun.

Yellow-level restrictions go into effect Saturday morning in Pitkin County

Pitkin County will move to Yellow-level restrictions beginning Saturday at 9 a.m., local public health officials said Friday.

Members of the county’s Board of Health decided Thursday that if the local COVID-19 incidence rate continued to decrease Friday, the new lesser restrictions would be put into place Saturday.

According to the latest local epidemiology data, Pitkin County’s incidence rate dropped to 135 on Friday, meaning that number has been on the decline for seven consecutive days. In order to move to a less restrictive level on the state’s COVID-19 dial, a county must show that seven-day decline, according to new rules implemented last week by the state of Colorado.

Pitkin County’s incidence rate has not only dropped for seven consecutive days, but has also been below 300 for that entire week, according to the local data. The number 300 is the cut-off between Orange and Yellow level restrictions.

Yellow-level restrictions allow most local businesses, including indoor restaurant dining, to operate at 50% capacity. Those restrictions will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, said Tracy Trulove, county spokeswoman.

Board of Health Chairwoman Markey Butler said Thursday that she was happy going to Yellow would increase capacity at local restaurants. One Aspen restaurant owner agreed, though he said he didn’t appreciate the county’s past efforts when it came to restaurants.

“It was a relief to the unanimous willingness of the county officials to align with the state dial 2.0 and adjust to the lower Yellow level,” Jimmy Yeager, owner of Jimmy’s, said in an email to The Times. “Whereas I understand their consistent cautionary stance, I remain critical of some of their previous decisions which resulted in more harm than help. After witnessing this level of unilateral power I believe there is a need to take a hard look and action to ensure that future (board of health) members reflect a broader community health representation.”

The long haul: After COVID-19 infections, some struggle with prolonged recoveries

Dana Gosnell, of Vail, said she was infected with the coronavirus last March, but continues to a face a host of difficult symptoms many months later.
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After catching the coronavirus last March, Dana Gosnell figured she’d be feeling better by now, not worse. Instead, she said she finds herself still facing a confusing and scary array of symptoms.

Gosnell, who lives in Vail, said she was in bed for about 10 days with her initial COVID-19 infection. She had headaches and body aches and “felt crappy,” but started to recover. That changed in early June, when a host of strange symptoms and health problems surfaced and have persisted to this day.

Gosnell, hoping to help others by sharing her story, said she has had difficulty breathing, fatigue, dizziness, a thick mental fog, headaches, neck and shoulder pain, even sight problems, mouth ulcers and heart troubles, and is “starting to freak out a bit.”

The formerly active, athletic woman is now seeking treatment at the Center for Post-COVID-19 Care and Recovery at National Jewish Health in Denver. It’s one of a growing number of clinics forming to help people struggling to fully recover from coronavirus infections weeks and even months later.

That’s because Gosnell is not alone. She and other long-haul COVID patients around the country say they are trying to resume their lives, but finding themselves struggling or unable to, still facing a wide range of mysterious and lingering symptoms.

 

Dana Gosnell has a spirometry test performed on her lungs.
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William Allstetter, director of media and external relations for National Jewish Health, said the post-COVID center is seeing dozens of patients a week and has seen about 1,000 patients so far. It started seeing patients early in the pandemic, knowing people with severe COVID-19 infections would require post-hospitalization care.

Today, patients at the center range from people who were severely ill, who were hospitalized and often put on ventilators and now require physical and occupational rehabilitation that can last for months, to patients with far less severe COVID-19 infections who seemed to recover, but then developed a constellation of symptoms including severe fatigue, brain fog and rapid heartbeat. “These cases are a bit mysterious both in what causes them and how long they will persist,” Allstetter said. “We are conducting research to try to better understand and treat them.”

Gosnell said her nearly year-long struggle to regain her health has been physically, mentally and financially challenging, and left her, a single mother, unable to return to work. Answers to what is ailing her and other long-haul COVID patients are elusive, with researchers not certain what is causing their symptoms to persist. “I’m willing to try anything at this point,” Gosnell said.

With millions of Americans already infected by the coronavirus, the growing recognition of long-haul cases is raising questions for patients and their individual recoveries, as well as about the virus’s longer-term impacts on public health.

While COVID-19 infections have been trending downward in recent weeks, the virus is still infecting hundreds of Coloradans and tens of thousands of Americans each day. Officials continue to stress the importance of prevention to a pandemic-fatigued people, while also trying to distribute limited vaccine supplies to eventually end a pandemic that over the past year has infected more than 409,000 Coloradans and killed 5,500. Nationwide, more than 27 million people have been infected, with about 470,000 killed.

“While the number of people affected isn’t yet known, if even a small proportion of the vast numbers of people infected with COVID-19 develop Long COVID syndrome, it represents a significant public health concern,” Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, wrote on his blog in January.

Some studies estimate as many as 10% of COVID-19 patients go on to become long-haulers, exhibiting a wide range of symptoms of varying severity more than 12 weeks after their initial infections.

“We can’t think of COVID as just 10 days and done,” said Robert Lam, a practicing emergency physician for UCHealth and assistant professor at University of Colorado School of Medicine. “And as the number of cases grows, tragically, so does the number of patients looking at long-haul symptoms.”

Lam and medical students undertook a transition of care study last year that looked at the recoveries of people hospitalized for the virus from March to September at UCHealth’s two main hospitals. “We wanted to know how they were doing once they got home. We rapidly learned that a lot of these patients were not recovering,” Lam said.

That study was recently published in the Journal of Investigative Medicine. It found that about a third of the hospitalized patients had lingering symptoms beyond six weeks of their release.

Lam said long-haul patients can seemingly be split into two groups: People with organ damage caused by the coronavirus, which has a unique ability to infiltrate multiple types of cells, and people with no organ damage from their infections, but persistent symptoms nonetheless.

While some people struggling with persistent long-haul symptoms appear to be older, with two or more underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes or heart or kidney disease, others are younger and otherwise healthy, Lam said. “It is weird, some people with very mild illness also develop this long-haul journey.”

‘Thru-hike across the unknown’

Miles Griffis, an independent journalist in Los Angeles County, California, with ties to Eagle County, said he is one of those people on a long-haul journey. “It has completely changed my life,” he said.

Griffis, in his 20s, thinks he was infected with the coronavirus last February, though he could not get tested in that stage of the pandemic. A year later, Griffis said he’s still struggling with health troubles, including headaches, debilitating fatigue, lightheadedness, various neurological issues and nausea. The symptoms have kept him from working as much as he used to and from recreating with anything near the same vigor as before.

In an essay for Adventure Journal, Griffis describes his long-haul COVID as a “thru-hike across the unknown.” He said he’s been to the doctor more than ever before and been tested for a wide range of possible ailments, all of which have come back normal.

Many long-haulers are struggling to get doctors to take their health complaints seriously, and are having their symptoms written off as anxiety, Griffis said. And while more post-COVID clinics are opening around the country, many require people to have a positive test, something that’s problematic for those who couldn’t get tested early in the pandemic.

Griffis said he and many other long-haulers are connecting with each other on the Body Politic COVID-19 Support Group, as well as other groups on Facebook and Reddit. His case is now being considered by a post-COVID clinic in his area, after being referred by his new physician.

Miles Griffis, an independent journalist in Los Angeles County, California, with ties to Eagle County, has described long-haul COVID symptoms as a "thru-hike across the unknown."
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“She believes me and has diagnosed me with long COVID. We’ve ruled out pretty much everything else, and the timeline fits with COVID, so hopefully I’m accepted into the post-COVID clinic,” Griffis said.

For now, Griffis said he’s one of a growing number of long-haulers looking for help and for answers that are difficult, if not impossible, to find. “It’s a despairing place to be in,” Griffis said. “There’s so much attention on the really critical cases, as there should be. However, we also need to be helping patients who have quote-unquote recovered, because many of us haven’t recovered at all.”

‘You’re not crazy, you’re not alone’

Dr. Mindy Cooper at Colorado Mountain Medical said she has seen several local patients with long-haul COVID symptoms. “If I were going to say one thing you could convey, it’s that these people are not crazy. This is a real syndrome. We don’t understand it completely, but it is real,” Cooper said.

Cooper said in her own practice she’s not seeing the same prevalence of long-haul COVID cases being reported nationally. But she encourages any local residents who may be suffering from ongoing, persistent symptoms to focus on good sleep hygiene, staying hydrated, and taking care of themselves.

She also encourages people to see a physician, and to make sure that their physician is listening to them, and seek out counseling services if they are needed. The pandemic has taken a heavy toll on mental health, and lingering symptoms and difficulties weeks or even months after a COVID-19 infection only compound that.

“It’s not in your head, you’re not crazy, and you’re not alone,” Cooper said about long-haulers, encouraging people still struggling with symptoms to seek out help and not give up hope.

 

Dr. Mindy Cooper at Colorado Mountain Medical has seen several local patients with long-haul COVID symptoms. "If I were going to say one thing you could convey, it's that these people are not crazy. This is a real syndrome. We don't understand it completely, but it is real,“ she said.
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‘It’s not slowing down’

In the town of Fruita, in Mesa County, Family Health West recently started a Post-COVID Recovery Team. The area saw a surge in infections last fall, and the health care provider started hearing about people who got over their initial COVID-19 infections but are still having a wide range of lingering effects.

With the varied long-haul symptoms people are reporting — ranging from fatigue and respiratory complaints to neurological, psychological and speech problems and joint pains — treating people required more than a one-doctor’s-office kind of approach, said Stacey Mascarenas, director of communications for Family Health West.

“We’re fortunate that we’re a large enough system, it was easy to collaborate and to bring people together to talk about case studies, and it was like, let’s create a clinic where we can bring all these specialists together, and that was what we did,” Mascarenas said.

In a month and a half, the clinic has over 100 patients. “It’s not slowing down. We’re getting inquiries daily. They go through an assessment process because everyone is unique. Everyone who has COVID or got COVID reacts differently,” Mascarenas said.

In addition to seeing a doctor or seeing a counselor, Mascarenas also encouraged people facing long-haul symptoms to jot down notes about what symptoms they’re experiencing and when to share with their physician or mental health counselor.

While the federal and state governments try to roll out vaccines to eventually end the COVID-19 pandemic, Griffis said he encourages people who have not yet been infected by the virus to continue to be vigilant in avoiding it.

“This condition could be completely life changing, it could take a year of your life or more. And it’s not just affecting elderly people. A lot of the long-haulers I’ve talked to are young people in their 20s, 30s and 40s who were in super good shape before this,” Griffis said.

More schools send quarantine notices

Eagle County Charter Academy, Eagle Valley Elementary School and Homestake Peak School sent quarantine notices Thursday after learning of COVID-19 infections, Eagle County Schools said.

The positive case at Eagle County Charter Academy was last in school Wednesday, and two cohorts of students will quarantine.

At Eagle Valley Elementary School, the positive case was last in school Feb. 5. Eleven students and staff member have been directed to quarantine.

The positive case at Homestake Peak School was last in school Monday. Eighteen students will quarantine, with another 21 students transitioning to remote learning for Friday. All students will return to in-person learning Monday, Feb. 22 following the February break.

Eagle County adopts state’s revised COVID-19 risk meter

Eagle County’s COVID-19 risk meter is featuring a new look, reflecting changes made by the state.

Effective Feb. 6, the county adopted COVID-19 Dial 2.0, the newest order from the state. Just as it did previously, the dial determines public health restrictions by county based on disease incidence rate, average positivity, and number of hospitalizations but the new dial incorporates revised metrics for determining a county’s color-coded status and is now based on weekly, instead of bi-weekly, reported data.

Eagle County remains in Level Orange under the new dial. Colorado has experienced a decrease in disease incidence rate over the past four weeks; however, many resort counties with a high volume of visitation remain at higher disease rates. Public health officials continue to reinforce following the Five Commitments of Containment to help continue to reduce the spread of the virus in Eagle County and qualify for the less restrictive Level Yellow.

“We have a lot of hope with the vaccination roll out in Eagle County, but we are asking for everyone’s help to reduce the current disease spread,” said Heath Harmon, Director of Eagle County Public Health and Environment. “The high rates in Eagle County and other resort communities are still impacting local businesses and schools. We still have several more months of wearing masks, keeping physical distance and limiting large gatherings.These precautions will support our economy and schools by lowering disease spread, while allowing our health system to focus on vaccinations.”

Visit https://covid19.colorado.gov and eaglecountycovid.org for more information.