Call it expected community spread, a mini-surge, or the steady ramp-up to herd immunity, there is no question that the number of new COVID-19 cases in Eagle County are on the rise.
According to county statistics, there have been nearly 100 new cases in the last 15 days, bringing the total number of cases in the Eagle River Valley to 778 out of 5,226 individuals tested as of Monday morning.
Those numbers obviously pale in comparison to the massive national spike that has 39 states seeing increased infections, including Florida at a national-record-setting pace of more than 15,000 cases in just one day.
Overall, the United States saw more than 100,000 new cases over the weekend, with some of the highest numbers occurring in states like Texas where residents love to visit Colorado. And for the first time in months, national death rates are starting to climb as well.
That has some local residents of a tourist-dependent area like Vail, served by just one 53-room hospital, understandably nervous — especially with the backdrop of the growing national debate about returning to school next month.
According to the Vail Daily, the Eagle County School District is weighing a draft plan to return all elementary and middle school students to in-person classes five days a week starting Aug. 18. High school students would return on more of a part-time basis.
Meanwhile, there is unease locally about what next ski season will look like even as the community struggles with welcoming summer guests back to town.
The Eagle County commissioners offered up this letter on the topic on Friday:
Message from your county commissioners
In addition to being home to a thriving, health-conscious community, Eagle County is also a world-famous tourism and recreation destination. Second homeowners, vacationers, and day-trip visitors will continue to enter the county to enjoy our mountain lifestyle, dining, and entertainment opportunities.
While we will continue to warmly welcome visitors, there is a valid concern among our residents that those traveling into the area from the outside may not be as committed to or aware of our public health standards and behaviors. Travelers may be originating from areas with different guidelines, or they may feel that being on vacation in a perceived “safe haven” from COVID-19 allows them to drop their guard and adopt a more relaxed attitude.
We recently launched a visitor messaging campaign — “Come Well. Stay Well. Leave Well.” — to help educate our visitors, as well as reinforce existing communication to locals. We’ve coordinated messaging for electronic road signs countywide, have distributed over 40 large A-frame signs to key high-traffic locations, and have begun a three-month advertising campaign in local newspapers (both in print and digitally). We added signage to the business toolkit for display in shop and restaurant windows. We will soon have reusable table tents in thousands of hotel rooms and rentals for guests to see, as well as messaging inside and outside of busses and at the airport. Lastly, we are in talks with Google to experiment with digital advertising to reach visitors well before they arrive, and are using our social media channels for the same purpose.
This high-visibility saturation strategy will encourage compliance from our visitors, while still maintaining our signature welcoming and friendly vibe.
Also on Friday, the county put out the following press release on new methods of reporting COVID-19 statistics:
County to report demographic data related to COVID-19
Eagle County has added demographic data to its publicly viewable Eagle County Community COVID-19 Monitoring dashboard. New data includes the age, gender and ethnicity of confirmed cases. The county is displaying this information to better inform the public of the impact of the disease in particular on the local workforce, Latino community, older adults, and youth and young adults.
“From the time of our first outbreak, the county’s public health department has been sharing data in our dashboard in real time to ensure that the public is seeing the same information being used by our incident management team to inform their decisions,” said County Commissioner Matt Scherr. “We are now able to include this more descriptive information about the population with a confirmed positive COVID-19 test. We believe this information will help community members and organizations take action to reduce the spread of disease.”
County leadership believes that providing the data will allow community members to draw accurate conclusions about how COVID-19 has impacted and will continue to impact certain segments of the population. More importantly, we look forward to using this and other data to deepen the ongoing work we have with partners and affected groups to better communicate experiences, needs, and concerns and to support action plans to address those needs.
Regular updates on the county’s response to COVID-19 are being shared at www.ECEmergency.org. The county’s forum for community discussions is at www.facebook.com/OneValleyVoice. Those with additional questions can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 970-328-9750.