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Debate over failed COVID-19 response hits home as local tests, vaccination ramp up for 2021

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December 28, 2020, 12:41 pm

Eagle County’s COVID-19 numbers appear to be on a downward trajectory – at least for now – even as the virus explodes across the nation. But the debate over the failed federal response has never been more intense locally after a holiday visit by Vice President Mike Pence.

As first reported by RealVail.com, Pence – head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force – jetted into town last week, returning to the Lodge at Vail, where he last held court in 2018. That report drew the attention of media outlets from NBC to Mother Jones to the Daily Beast.

But it was the reaction of former Vail Town Council member and current state Sen. Kerry Donovan – in the form of a Twitter tirade aimed at Pence – that drew national and even international headlines.

Donovan’s Twitter thread started last week with this simple warning to Pence: “Stay tuned for a story a day of things that would be different if you had chosen to lead and address instead of ignore and minimize the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Then Donovan proceeded to deliver with tales of overwhelmed food banks, essential workers, schools and locals who have died from the virus even as the Trump administration deliberately downplayed the pandemic and said it would be over by Easter.

As of Monday morning, 14 Eagle County residents have died due to COVID-19, with 99 hospitalizations and many more transported to Denver for lower-elevation treatment. There have been 3,285 cases recorded since the pandemic began in March, shutting down local ski areas during peak season. As recently as Dec. 14, cases were spiking again with 61 new infections that one day, but on Sunday there were only four new cases recorded.

Still, local public health officials and health care providers are nervous about the holidays, with thousands of guests pouring into town. On Monday, Vail Health opened a new drive-through testing site in Gypsum. Here’s that press release:

Vail, CO (Dec. 23, 2020) ― On Monday, December 28, Vail Health will open a drive-through COVID-19 testing site in Gypsum. Located at 410 McGregor Dr., Gypsum, CO 81637, patients will be able to receive testing without seeing a provider. The drive-through testing site will be open Monday-Friday from 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. by appointment only. It will be closed on New Year’s Day, Friday, Jan. 1, 2021.

 To book an appointment, please visit VailHealth.org/COVIDScheduling. Patients with appointments will stay in their vehicle and pull up to the west side of the building at the time of their scheduled appointment. 

 COVID-19 test results will be available through the Colorado Mountain Medical Patient Portal within 24-72 hours of receiving the test for those over 18 years old. If under 18 years old, a patient’s guardian(s) can expect a phone call. Complete instructions on how to enroll and access the Patient Portal will be provided at the time of testing. 

 Vail Health and its partner Colorado Mountain Medical are offering COVID-19 testing at six locations throughout the Eagle River Valley. 

For additional information regarding COVID-19 testing in Eagle County, or instructions on accessing the Patient Portal, please visit https://www.vailhealth.org/covid-19/testing.

Please note: Anyone who is tested must isolate until results are received. Do not go back to school or work. Refer to Eagle County Public Health guidance for isolation and quarantine information. For those that have been in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 or is under quarantine at the instruction of Eagle County Public Health, a negative COVID-19 test does not eliminate the need for quarantine. Please refer to Eagle County’s Public Health guidance on retesting, available on the Eagle County Government COVID-19 Website.

And here’s a press release from Eagle County last week detailing efforts to get local health care workers vaccinated:

Dec. 23, 2020 – In the first week of the vaccine’s arrival, more than 900 people in Eagle County received a first dose, with that number expected to triple in the next two to three weeks. The county received 1,900 doses of the Moderna vaccine yesterday (12/22), adding to the 875 doses of the Pfizer vaccine received on Dec. 15.

The first groups in Eagle County to receive the vaccine included:
-Healthcare workers who interact for extended periods of time or greater frequency with COVID-19 patients, including staff that provide care, conduct testing and/or are providing vaccinations.
-Staff and residents of long term care facilities.
-Home health care providers and hospice.
-First responders, including paramedics, law enforcement, firefighters and search and rescue personnel.
-Other medical staff – behavioral health specialists, dental staff and pharmacists.

Eagle County and its partners in the medical community are fielding hundreds of questions on when the vaccine will be available for additional people. “It is difficult to forecast the timing for moving past the first round of vaccines, since our progress is based on what are currently very limited supplies,” said Heath Harmon, Eagle County Director of Public Health and Environment.

Public Health officials are hopeful that they may be able to move into the next priority groups in early January, although this will be based on vaccine supply. Those next priority groups will likely include people who are at greater risk for severe disease and death, followed by workers who provide services that are essential for the community to function. The equitable distribution of the vaccine is also very important. Many workers and community members who are on the frontlines and cannot work remotely have had a disproportionate risk of exposure to the virus and will also be important to reach earlier. Priority groups are being further identified by the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, based on federal guidance from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Additional guidance can be found on the state’s COVID-19 vaccine site.

“While we know our community is anxiously awaiting availability of the vaccine for everyone, we must remember that every vaccine given makes our county a little bit safer,” Harmon said. “We want our community members to have a good understanding of what the order will be, acknowledging that we will need to make some adjustments if revisions are made at the federal or state levels.”

Updates on vaccine availability and the timing for priority groups within Eagle County will be shared widely through many communications channels, including www.EagleCountyCovid.org and the county’s social media platforms, as well as through partner organizations, local medical providers and local media outlets.

One Response to Debate over failed COVID-19 response hits home as local tests, vaccination ramp up for 2021

  1. Barbara Ragan Reply

    December 28, 2020 at 2:35 pm

    Right on Kerry!

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