During a joint Board of Health and Summit Board of County Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 5, Public Health Director Amy Wineland had a lot of good news to share regarding the county’s COVID-19 situation.
Wineland reported that Summit County is experiencing a downward trend. Though the community’s incidence rate continues to hover between 100 and 200 cases per 100,000 people — it’s currently at 171 cases for the last 28 days — the community’s confirmed and probable cases are both decreasing along with the percent positivity rate. Wineland added that St. Anthony Summit Hospital’s capacity “continues to be just fine.”
The rest of the state is doing slightly better than it was just a few weeks ago, as well.
Though this is all positive news, Wineland said the community isn’t out of the woods yet. Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence asked when it would be appropriate to revisit policies currently in place within Summit County government buildings, such as requiring visitors to wear masks before entering. Wineland replied that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends communities mask up in indoor settings if their incidence rate is 50 or higher.
Wineland pointed out that while people should be optimistic about where the community’s numbers are heading, there could still be setbacks on the horizon.
“The biggest worry … is that fall’s coming (and so is) colder weather,” Wineland said. “People are going inside, and also flu season is just about to start. So hopefully this trend will continue, but we need to be conscious of that change that will be coming in the next few weeks.”
Plus, some of the data could shift. Wineland commended the county for its high vaccination rate but noted that this data is set against the 2019 U.S. Census Bureau’s data. Within the next few weeks, the county will begin using 2020 census data. Though, according to the bureau’s website, some of the data for these two years looks very similar: The 2020 numbers report that the county’s population is 31,055, while the 2019 numbers estimates the population at about 31,011.
According to an email from Summit County spokesperson Nicole Valentine in June, the vaccination rate is based on the address individuals give to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment at the time of their vaccination. Valentine said this address is not verified. Therefore, the number of individuals vaccinated in each age group may not correspond with 2019 data for Summit County, and in many cases numbers may be higher or lower. It’s also important to note that individuals vaccinated outside the state are not included in the local data.
According to the county’s website, about 83% of the community’s population is fully vaccinated and 92% have received at least one dose.
In addition to data changes and the looming colder weather, Wineland said children ages 6-11 might not be eligible for a vaccine until November. Originally, the hope was that this population could become eligible by the end of the month.
The virus is still a threat to the community, but Wineland noted that some people are starting to relax and let their defenses down. During her presentation, she said that some people who test positive are declining to be interviewed for contact tracing purposes or disclose who they might’ve exposed. She said some are even still going to work when they are sick and contagious with the virus. She emphasized that people should remain at home if they have symptoms and that even vaccinated individuals can still spread the virus.
To keep the community resilient, Wineland said her department plans to collaborate with local ski areas to get more people vaccinated. Lawrence also encouraged people to mask up in indoor settings, especially retail stores.
“I’m in Arkansas, who has had one of the worst case rates in the country and one of the worst vaccination rates,” Lawrence said, attending the meeting via Zoom. “I will say mask compliance here in retail stores is very, very high. All employees wear them, and I’ve been surprised at the people in the stores that are wearing them. … I think we got a wake-up call here.
“I’ve just seen a lot of mask compliance at grocery stores and various other things, maybe even more so than in Summit County. … It’s just a good reminder to our community to keep wearing those masks when we go shopping … and things like that.”