The Eagle County Board of Health (BOH) convened an emergency session on Dec. 22 and reinstated a countywide mask mandate indoors regardless of vaccination status. A public health order to that effect becomes active at noon on Dec. 22 and applies to all public indoor spaces, such as public facilities, businesses, and other common spaces. It is set to expire on Jan. 17, 2022, and will be re-evaluated at that time. The public health order is posted online.
The decision was made in response to alarming news about the rise of COVID-19 cases in the community. During the course of a week, medical providers reported a dramatic spike in the number of sick individuals. A public health alert issued last Friday asked for the public to wear face coverings within indoor public settings. The case count was previously hovering at about 300 cases per 100,000; as of Dec. 22, that number was reported at over 1,000 cases per 100,000, the highest during the pandemic.
Officials theorize the spike is due to the rise of the highly transmissible Omicron variant in the community, as well as a large number of visitors present during the holidays.
Due to the high disease incidence rate, the county’s medical infrastructure is at serious risk of being unable to accommodate individuals seeking medical care, whether due to COVID-19 related illness or other needs requiring hospitalization. Local medical providers report staff shortages, increased hospitalization, and a doubling of emergency department visits from this time last year.
Further, COVID-19 testing capacity is also strained. Providers may be unable to offer to test to all individuals seeking it within an estimated two weeks. Turnaround times for processing tests have doubled to 48 hours.
Medical providers have appealed to the state for additional registered nurses, vaccine resources, and testing capacity, and those resources are being deployed.
Officials recommend hosting small holiday gatherings this year and, if possible, holding them outdoors. They urge community members to take a “layered” approach to effective actions. Washing hands, maintaining social distance, wearing face coverings, receiving vaccines and booster doses, seeking testing, as well as following isolation and quarantine protocol, are still recommended as the best practices for lowering the spread of the virus.
Eagle County facilities currently require staff and customers to wear face coverings while in County facilities and vehicles until case counts drop below 500 per 100,000.
ECPHE will continue to provide robust availability of the COVID-19 vaccine and boosters for all eligible individuals. Public Health officials note the importance of testing when individuals have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 or after being exposed to someone with the disease. Anyone testing positive should remain at home and isolate for 10 days from when the symptoms began.
Testing centers are set up throughout Eagle County though hours and locations are subject to change.
Up-to-date information about testing locations, days, and times can be found at www.eaglecountycovid.org. A business toolkit is also available online.