With local COVID-19 cases spiking in Eagle County, officials are preparing for the move into the high-risk phase of the state’s COVID-19 dial by 5 p.m. Monday.
The transmission of the virus in Eagle County is at its highest point since the onset of the pandemic. In the orange phase of the state’s dial, local restaurants, gyms, retail stores, offices and personal service businesses can only operate at 25% capacity or fewer than 50 people. The same goes for indoor events.
A recurring pattern
Heath Harmon, Eagle County’s public health director, told community leaders Thursday morning during a call hosted by the Vail Chamber and Business Association that incident rates of COVID-19 transmission currently exceed the county’s two previous spikes in March and July.
“We need to level this off and go down,” Harmon said. “That window is getting more narrow. We’ve done this before. We did this in August. This is really important for us to have a healthier winter with less disruption for all of you.”
If the county numbers continue to rise, the return of a stay-at-home order looms in the red phase of the dial.
Harmon said virus transmission in the county was already trending upward heading into Halloween weekend, which only fueled the surge, just like the county’s previous spike occurred following the Fourth of July holiday.
On Thursday’s call, he said 50% of new cases are residents between the ages of 19 and 35. And in an email sent to residents on Friday, he wrote: “Halloween has demonstrated that we can and must do better. We continue to investigate multiple parties related to the holiday that have led to several outbreaks of COVID-19.”
The local situation follows national and state trends as the virus has exploded across the country. On Thursday, Colorado’s top epidemiologist said the state’s surge is getting worse, not better.
Harmon said residents have three to four weeks to turn things around to ensure a successful start to the ski season. That means making some hard choices when it comes to Thanksgiving.
“The safest choice is really having that Thanksgiving event with your own household,” he said.
Under the current public health guidelines, in-home gatherings are limited to less than 10 and no more than two households.
Will Cook, the CEO and president of Vail Health, echoed Harmon’s call to action in the same call, noting that the state’s hospital system is more stressed than it has been at any point since the start of the pandemic.
He also stressed that the second-order consequences of the pandemic, such as food security, economic woes, substance abuse and mental health issues, will only become more exacerbated if the county is forced to shut down again and schools closed to in-person learning.
“This is not a political issue,” Cook said. “It’s a reality that we’re facing.”
Prioritizing case investigations
In a text Friday, an Eagle County official said case investigators are now beyond their capacity to trace every single local case with over 100 cases reported in tow days. Case investigations are being prioritized based on age and occupation (if known), and potential outbreaks (if known), schools and child care. Once investigators work through the priority groups, they’ll move to contacting the remaining cases.
With so many new cases, the county is also asking residents to act without waiting for public health intervention by isolating for 10 days if you are sick or test positive and to quarantine at home for 14 days if you are exposed to someone who has COVID-like symptoms or tests positive.
County operational changes
In response to the increased transmission of COVID-19 in the community, as well as a request from the governor’s office, the county will be restricting in-person interactions at county facilities beginning Monday but will continue to provide services via phone and/or online.
Office- and department-specific changes at county offices and contact information are available at http://www.eaglecounty.us. These precautions will be in effect through the end of November, then will be reevaluated.
Community information and resources in response to COVID-19 are available at http://www.eaglecountycovid.org.
Vail operational changes
The town of Vail is also making additional adjustments to its office-based operations effective Monday.
To keep interactions between non-household members to a minimum, town employees have been directed to work remotely as much as possible. Community members are asked to conduct business with the town via phone and/or online services as available. All essential services, including transit, library, welcome center, building inspections, parking sales and police and fire will operate uninterrupted. Face coverings are required to access all interior public spaces and an outdoor mask zone has been established in the village core areas.
Municipal operations are available as follows until further notice:
- The Vail Municipal Building (east side) is open to the public with limited services. Please call ahead at 970-479-2100 to confirm and make every effort to conduct your business online at http://www.vailgov.com. The front desk is open for in-person assistance from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday for general inquiries, payments, etc. Call 970-479-2100 for inquiries.
- The police front counter is open for in-person services from 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Monday-Saturday for records. Call 970-479-2208.
- The parking pass sales office is open for in-person services from 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call 970-479-2104 for inquiries.
- Municipal court services are available by phone or by appointment by calling 970-479-2132.
- All other offices are by appointment only.
- Conference meeting rooms and council chambers that are typically available for nonprofit, HOA and public agency group use remain closed to the public until further notice
- The community development building (west side) is open by appointment only. This includes access to planning, permitting and building divisions, plus environmental, economic development and housing department functions. All development applications will continue to be processed in a timely manner. The issuance of permits and permit payments will continue through web and phone operations. In-person appointments for any reason can be scheduled by contacting Shelley Bellm by phone at 970-479-2325 or by email at email@example.com. To request building inspections, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Conference rooms are unavailable for public use until further notice.
- The Vail Public Library will be open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily for in-person services to include: access to public internet computers, wireless and the library’s various collections. Patrons are limited to one hour per day. There is no access to the community room, tech studio or the Children’s Room. Curbside pickup is encouraged and virtual services will continue.Call 970-479-2187 or visit http://www.vaillibrary.com.
- Welcome centers in Vail Village and Lionshead are open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; the Lionshead location is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Nov. 20 and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. thereafter.
- The Vail transportation terminal building is open daily 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. for transit information, public restrooms and La Cantina food service.
- Vail Village and Lionshead parking structures remain open. Paid parking begins Nov. 20 with start of the 2020-2021 ski/ride season.
- Reservations for use of either Donovan Pavilion or Grand View in Lionshead may be made via phone by calling 70-477-3699. Site visits will be scheduled by appointment only.
- Visit www.vailrec.om for updates on Dobson Ice Arena, Vail Nordic Center, etc.
- All town of Vail board and commission meetings will continue to be held remotely until further notice.