Optimism rises as case counts lower in Pitkin County
Latest data trend suggests no capacity restrictions outdoors or indoors this summer
Pitkin County is edging closer to achieving herd immunity and ditching capacity restrictions in time for the summer season, according to County Manager Jon Peacock.
Citing recent public health trends in a COVID-19 update presentation he gave to county commissioners Tuesday, Peacock said recent COVID-19 case trends bode well for the county, now both feet into the offseason for tourism.
“This is what we anticipated would happen as we hit offseason with less travel in the community, that we’d start to see our case counts go down,” Peacock said. “And they are.”
Pitkin County’s seven-day case count was 14 on Tuesday, its lowest since Oct. 22 when it was also 14, according to county statistics. The same goes for the incidence rate, which was 79 on Wednesday, the lowest number it had been since it was 79 as well on Oct. 22, data shows.
The positive rate was 2.4% Tuesday — 23 positive results out of 950 tests administered over seven days.
The declining numbers set up the county well to retreat from its use of the state dial metrics and restrictions on May 27, which is the Thursday before Memorial Day Weekend. The goal is for the county to work in concert with other resort communities to establish consistent protective measures, Peacock said.
“We’re looking forward to that Memorial Day Weekend that we’ve reached that critical mass,” he said.
The way data is trending, it is a realistic scenario that there will be no capacity restrictions outdoors or indoors this summer, said Peacock. The county also plans to re-open its buildings to the public June 1. Plans will become more concrete when the Pitkin County board of health meets May 13.
In the meantime, Peacock said people need be steadfast in using preventive measures against the virus, and there’s also a push to get as many county residents vaccinated as possible.
Dating back to December when Aspen Valley Hospital and Community Health Services began Phase 1A of vaccinations, 23,600 doses will have been administered in the county by the end of this week. Recipients comprise 57% Pitkin County residents and 43% non-residents, who include commuters and part-time residents, Peacock said.
Fifty percent of the county’s eligible population has been vaccinated, and 16- and 17-year-olds received their first doses last week. That percentage does not include the 4,579 doses given to Pitkin residents outside of the county, which could raise the percentage to 57%, according to data.
Pitkin County can achieve herd immunity with the vaccination of 70% of its residents, “which is really the goal,” Peacock said. That’s the minimum threshold for herd immunity, “and we’re really getting there,” he said.
An estimated 3,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine have been administered in the county, Peacock said. The Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week recommended a pause of the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine because of a link to rare blood clotting among six of the 6.8 million vaccinated.
“I would say out of an abundance of caution was it pulled,” the county manager said.
Thursday marks the conclusion of the county’s mass-vaccination clinic at the Benedict Music Tent parking lot, as the county partners with Community Health Services to operate mobile, pop-up and smaller vaccination clinics.
“The convenience of having a mass clinic right here in Pitkin County is coming to a close, in part because we’ve had a tough time getting people to sign up for vaccines in the last few weeks,” said Incident Commander Phylis Mattice in a statement this week. “With clinics starting to open with primary care providers, pharmacies and a state-run clinic in Grand Junction, it appears people who were motivated to find an appointment went elsewhere.”
To schedule an vaccination appointment for this week at the Benedict Tent site, visit https://avh.jotform.com/210874815707966. If it’s your first of two doses, the county will set up an appointment for the second jab. The county also has launched a “Vaccine Finder” at http://www.covid19.pitkincounty.com, which is where people can find locations to get vaccinated.
“The transition does not mean we are going to stop administering vaccines,” said Carly Senst, Pitkin County Public Health, in a statement Tuesday. “We are just changing the scale at which they will be administered. The focus is shifting to consistency and accessibility.”
The mass-vaccination site will have accounted for 18,116 of the doses given.
“It’s been an impressive community effort, and one we do need to celebrate,” Peacock said, applauding AVH, Community Health Services, local municipalities and government, the Pitkin County Incident Team, and the volunteers who averaged 70 per clinic.
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While Aspen’s upcoming winter season will contain echoes of last winter’s COVID-19 mitigation strategies, vaccines and booster shots will likely allow for a simpler set of guidelines this time around.