More than 25,000 COVID-19 vaccination doses administered in Eagle County
Public health officials are ’very, very proud’ of that number
More than 25,400 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Eagle County. That’s nearly half of the county’s population — 55,127 as estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau back in 2019.
Of course, 25,000 doses don’t translate into 25,000 people because some of the vaccine numbers reflect two-dose requirements. But still …
“That number, as a percentage of the population, is incredible and we are very, very proud of it,” said Eagle County Emergency Management Director Birch Barron on Tuesday.
Many of those shots went into local arms over the past week when 4,500 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, also know as the Janssen vaccine, shipped out to Eagle County. That shipment sparked large vaccination clinics at the Eagle County Fairgrounds, Vail Health Hospital and Battle Mountain High School late last week.
During his weekly report to the Eagle County Board of Commissioners, Baron noted an average of 220 people per hour — or three to four people per minute — received their shots during the large vaccination events. “We have administered nearly all of those 4,500 doses,” he said. “That is really an important accomplishment.”
As people rolled up their shelves for a shot, Barron said many of them expressed deeply thankful and downright joyful sentiments. Looking ahead to this week, the county learned it will receive another 1,600 doses of vaccine from a combination of the three approved manufacturers — Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Modern.
“We will take every vaccine dose we can get,” said Barron. He noted that residents often ask him which variant they should receive.
“I tell them get whatever you can get,” he said.
Because the number of vaccines scheduled for shipment this week is smaller than last week, the county is not planning a large scale drive-in clinic but shots will be administered at various locations. To learn more about who is currently eligible for vaccination or to register for a clinic, visit eaglecountycovid.org.
Path to normal
As the state continues its aggressive vaccination strategy, Barron noted that the possibility exists that by April, shots will be available to the general public. That welcome news comes on top of new guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control that state vaccinated individuals can go maskless when interacting with small groups of other vaccinated individuals. Additionally, people who are vaccinated and are exposed to someone who has contracted COVID-19 do not have to observe a 14-day quarantine if they do not exhibit disease symptoms.
“Things like that are the best incentives to be vaccinated,” said Barron. “This is the path back to normal.”
That’s a path people in the county, state, nation and around the globe desperately want to tread, Barron noted. Tuesday’s commissioners meeting gave him an unscripted example of the issues community members have faced during these days of COVID-19. When the woman who provides care for his 3-year-old son had to leave the area to take care of some ill family members, Barron was left with no option but to bring his child to this week’s commissioners meeting. Asher amused himself by spinning in a chair while his dad delivered the official COVID-19 news.
Incidence back in orange
Even as he talked about a post-pandemic scenario, Barron said Eagle County residents need to focus on current disease spread.
While Eagle County remains in the yellow, or “cautious” stage of the Colorado COVID-19 risk meter, the local incidence rate has crept up into the orange “high risk” level.
“We are not carrying through on how to do things as a community, as far as keeping disease levels down,” said Barron. “We are close to three times the state average.”
Last week, there were 152 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Eagle County. That translates into an incidence level — cases per 100,000 people — of 303 cases. That pushed the county slightly over the threshold for the orange level in the incidence metric. The county’s one-week positivity number and 12-day declining or stable hospitalization rates both remain in the blue, “cautious” level.
Commissioner Matt Scherr noted that out of the 64 counties in Colorado, there are only four with an incidence level as high as Eagle County’s.
“Do we know why our levels remain so high?” Scherr asked.
“We do not. What is happening in our county is not happening across the state,” Barron responded. “Our social distancing, as a county, has fallen further and further behind the state level.”
“These incidence levels are something we are driving on our own,” Barron continued. “Everyone wants to point to something external that’s causing it … But the fact is this is an indicator of our community. People are letting their foot off the gas too early.”
In response, Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney reminded residents that the new CDC guidelines reflect mask recommendations for small, in home gatherings.
“Out in public, out in groups, you still need to be wearing a mask,” she said. “It is still the public health order. When you are out there, you will need to have your mask on.”
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Warm and dry conditions to start the winter have kept all but the higher elevation slopes free of snow. That is expected to change by the end of the week and the avalanche hazard could start to climb, according to Colorado Avalanche Information Center.