On Thursday, Vail Health issued a press release on a new academic report detailing the coordinated response to COVID-19 by Vail Health, Eagle County, and other agencies. Medical Care, the official journal of the Medical Care Section of the American Public Health Association has published a new report titled “All Public Health Is Local: Lessons from Eagle County During the First Two Years of the Covid-19 Pandemic”. The report describes how Colorado’s Eagle County, Vail Health, and other county agencies collaborated to address the immediate and unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Their coordinated response offers lessons for other U.S. counties wanting to improve public health outcomes in the face of a new pandemic.
A Taskforce is Formed for a Quick Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic
In January 2020, the Eagle County Public Health Department and Vail Health recognized the potential for the SARS-COV2 virus to become a serious worldwide pandemic with significant implications for Eagle County residents and its foreign and domestic visitors who come to enjoy the area’s ski resorts and natural beauty. Eagle County’s answer was to form a 40-member task force to anticipate public health needs and prepare a robust response.
Local Solutions Yield Impressive Results During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Taskforce members included mid-management level employees from Eagle County’s Public Health Department, Paramedic and Fire services, and Public School District; along with Vail Health, Colorado Mountain Medical, Mountain Family Health Centers, and Castle Peak. Vail Health’s Chief Population Health Officer, Chris Lindley served as the task force’s Incident Commander. As a result of the task force, Eagle County achieved impressive results. It became the first county in Colorado to receive personal protective equipment. It was also the first to open a drive-through COVID-19 testing facility, and one of the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccines. Additionally, Vail Health Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit never reached maximum capacity for COVID-19 cases. Eagle County’s case fatality rate remained well below both the state of Colorado as well as the national average. Further, Eagle County’s vaccination rates were among the highest in both Colorado and the United States.
A Streamlined Approach to the COVID-19 Pandemic Cuts Red Tape
As the report acknowledges, Eagle County’s successes may not be replicable in states and counties that experience political interference. Destructive political interference impedes the rapid execution of public health measures. However, for counties without such interference, the transformative nature of the Eagle County’s COVID-19 task force will be important to consider when they design their responses to the next such pandemic.