Pitkin County’s 16-older residents up next for vaccine starting Thursday
County has Pfizer doses available to start earlier than state guideline
With doses available in this week’s COVID-19 vaccination clinic, Pitkin County will open Pfizer shots to all residents ages 16 and older beginning Thursday in Aspen, county officials announced Tuesday night.
Though all members of the latest phase, including restaurant workers, will not yet have been vaccinated by the end of this week, the county will move ahead of the newly released state guidelines and open registration to everyone 16 and older for the Pfizer dose this week.
About 6,000 Pitkin County residents, workers and long-term visitors signed up as part of the 1B4 group, which began last week and includes those ages 50 and older, County Manager Jon Peacock said Tuesday. By the end of Thursday’s vaccination clinic, between half and two-thirds of that group will have received their first dose.
“We were not seeing appointments fill up from the original 1B4 category that we have identified from our vaccine notices database,” Pitkin County spokeswoman Tracy Trulove said Tuesday night. “We didn’t want to see any doses go to waste and are following the lead of several other counties that are getting ahead of the state’s announcement by opening up to the general populace a couple of days ahead of the state’s timeline.”
Peacock said the county would be asking the state for more doses in the coming weeks.
“We will ask (the state) for a larger vaccine distribution,” he said. “We’re hoping we will continue to get more doses.”
For this week’s vaccination clinic, which continues at the parking lot of the Benedict Music Tent, the county received 1,170 Pfizer first doses and 500 Johnson & Johnson single doses along with 200 Moderna doses, Peacock said. Trulove said Tuesday night they have about half of the Pfizer shots available for Thursday.
All county residents 16 and older are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine, while those 18 and older are eligible for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, according to an announcement from Gov. Jared Polis on Monday.
Registration for appointments is on the county’s website at covid19.pitkincounty.com/vaccine/clinic-info (walk-ups are not allowed at the clinic). The county is working on how to confirm parental consent with those who are 16 and 17 looking to get the vaccine, Trulove said Tuesday.
The county will learn this weekend how many doses it will receive for next week, Peacock said.
Pitkin County remains the only county in Colorado under Orange level restrictions, which generally limits restaurant, office and other non-retail businesses to 25% capacity. The county must have seven consecutive days with 90 or fewer new COVID-19 cases and a positivity rate below 7.5% before state public health officials will move it back to Yellow level restrictions.
That, however, does not appear to be happening anytime soon, according to local epidemiological data.
“We’re definitely consistent with seven-day case counts around 100,” Peacock said.
Local data indicated there were 101 new COVID-19 cases in the county during the past seven days, with a positivity rate at 7.9%.
Reasons for the high case counts are unclear, though it could have something to do with the fact that Pitkin County has one of the highest testing rates in the state.
“We’re detecting more (cases),” Peacock said. “But everything’s speculation at this point.”
The county also has a highly mobile population based on cellphone data, more contagious variants are being found and spring break crowds have been consistently high in March, Peacock said.
“I do think there’s some fatigue out there as we come to a close of the ski season,” he said. “The vaccinations are just not there to stop the spread.”
More than 30% of the new cases in the past 14 days are among the 19 to 30 age group, which hasn’t been eligible for the vaccine, according to local data. Just under 30% of the new cases over the past two weeks are in the 31 to 40 age group.
Peacock urged residents to continue to wear face masks, practice social distancing and wash hands frequently for the next six to eight weeks to give the vaccines a better chance to stop the spread of the virus.
“I know it’s a tired message,” he said. “We’ve got a little bit longer where we need to focus.”
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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.