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As COVID-19 numbers rise locally, Eagle County locals nervous about national spike

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July 13, 2020, 9:04 am

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.

Eagle County commissioners

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 covidquestions@eaglecounty.us or call 970-328-9750.

5 Responses to As COVID-19 numbers rise locally, Eagle County locals nervous about national spike

  1. R Myer Reply

    July 13, 2020 at 10:12 am

    Are face shields permissible in place of cloth masks where social distancing is difficult, places like shopping, eateries, fitness centers, social events?

    Also, if one has an upper respirtory condition and a ‘mask’ makes it difficult to breath, how would you suggest these situations are accommodated for seniors?

  2. Kat Knott Reply

    July 13, 2020 at 2:56 pm

    It’s a dangerous assumption to say, “or the steady ramp-up to herd immunity” because there’s little evidence to support that herd immunity is even possible through natural infection.

    The findings from a growing number of peer-reviewed antibody studies are casting a lot of doubt on this widely-held assumption. One study found that over 10% of people no longer had detectable antibodies 21 days post Covid infection, while another study found over 17% no longer had antibodies. That’s in addition to multiple publications on cases detailing apparent or possible re-infection. Science is still trying to determine how strong and how long post-infection immunity lasts.

    Evidence is mounting that antibodies could be quite short-lived like a few weeks to a few months. For SARS & MERS post-infection antibodies last on average 12-18mos.

    Short-lived antibodies do not necessarily equate to short-lived immunity. T-Cells could play a greater role in Covid immunity than antibodies but, there’s little research to confirm or refute this either. And specific SARS-CoV-2 T-Cells are notoriously difficult and time/labor intensive to test for— not like the simplicity of testing for antibodies.

    Currently, all a positive antibody test can infer is that at the time tested, that individual is likely protected from reinfection but, next week, next month or next year— science really can’t say yet.

    Herd immunity could still be achieved through vaccination, as vaccines can be designed to elicit a stronger immune reaction that stimulates both a strong T-cell and strong antibody response vs that of natural infection.

    And the media perpetuating this notion, that if you had a positive antibody test or had Covid that you can’t get it again & expose others to it, gives people a dangerously false sense of security!!!!

    At this point in time, there is little basis in science to support the assertion that natural infection will create herd immunity or even substantial individual immunity. Look at HIV, Influenza, Herpes, SARS, MERS etc etc… natural infection doesn’t necessarily induce lasting immunity like it does in say, Chickenpox virus.

    Novel pathogens are so dangerous because we (science) know nothing about them. And until we do… making assumptions about them in the absence of scientific evidence, has life and death consequences.

  3. Kat Knott Reply

    July 13, 2020 at 3:07 pm

    Some of the Antibody Studies that found very short lived post infection antibodies—
    https://apple.news/AZvVOx_6HS0anrjdtM1WbtA

    https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.07.09.20148429v1.full.pdf

    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-020-0965-6

    https://apple.news/A1e517ZVNRl6mzmtl23NLbQ

    https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2820%2931483-5/fulltext

    “But this study does reinforce the message that we can’t assume someone who has had COVID-19 can’t get it again just because they initially became antibody positive,” said Maini, who was not involved in the study. “It also means a negative antibody test now can’t exclude you having had COVID-19 a few months ago. And it suggests vaccines will need to be better at inducing high levels of longer lasting antibodies than the natural infection or that doses may need to be repeated to maintain immunity.”
    -Dr Mala Maini
    Professor of viral immunity at the University College London

  4. Local Concern Reply

    July 14, 2020 at 2:20 pm

    The number of people coming into the valley from outside the county should be a concern. Just look to Vail and the town getting saturated with visitors. There is a huge risk of infection from people who are coming up from the front range and out of state from places like Texas which has seen a huge spike (are we next?).
    Many other locations are requiring either quarantine for up to two weeks or testing within 48 hours of travel. In an effort to avoid a spike again and closing down the valley testing or quarantine before should be considered as a safeguard to the local community.

  5. Kaleaf Meuller Reply

    July 18, 2020 at 5:28 am

    Enjoy it now because the resort will be closed by October at the rate this plaque is spreading around here. Everything was headed in the right direction until these fearless leaders decided the mighty greenback is more important than quality of like.

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