Vaccinations against COVID-19 arrived in Lake County on December 22, ushering in a new phase of the pandemic that Dr. Lisa Zwerdlinger called “the beginning of the end.”

The vaccine’s arrival to Lake County is a beam of hope in the new year, an opportunity to revive and reimagine our community, our physical and mental health, and our economy.

Lake County is dispensing the Moderna vaccine, a two-dose mRNA vaccine with a reported 94% efficacy rate. The vaccine, which can be stored at normal refrigeration temperatures, is well-suited for rural areas like Lake County that do not possess the ultra-cold freezers needed to store the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Many healthcare workers at St. Vincent Health, Rocky Mountain Family Practice and Lake County Public Health Agency (LCPHA) have already received the first dose of the vaccine. Other frontline workers, like firefighters, law enforcement officers and behavioral health professionals, are also beginning to receive vaccinations.

LCPHA will continue to roll out its vaccination plan in accordance with state guidance in 2021. Lake County’s general public can expect to be vaccinated in late spring or early summer of this year.

Recent data on Lake County’s COVID-19 positivity rate, the percentage of all tests performed  locally that are positive, is also encouraging. LCPHA last reported a two-week positivity rate of 10.7% on Dec. 28, about half the rate of two weeks before.

Statewide, Colorado’s positivity rate was down to 8.1% on Jan. 4, a marked decrease from mid-December.

The vaccine and declining positivity rates are reason for tentative optimism, a potential portal out of this mess with a cluster of question marks blocking the exit. The remaining questions are plentiful.

For one, there is about a two-week lag on COVID-19 case reporting. A potential spike related to the Christmas and New Year’s holiday, like that experienced locally after Halloween and Thanksgiving, is yet to be seen.

Another unknown is how many Lake County locals will decide to get vaccinated. Participate in the Herald’s online poll this week to inform the community about your vaccination plan.

There is also the looming threat of a COVID-19 variant, detected in two National Guard members in Simla last week, that is believed to be more contagious than previously identified strains. The variant, known as B.1.1.7, has also been detected in several other states.

And lastly, a long winter awaits us. Most of us will live out the season without the vaccine, biding time until the world welcomes us back to a safer version of itself. Until that day, we must remain vigilant in the practices we have all come to know this year — social distancing, wearing of masks, good hygiene and avoidance of group gatherings.

Rachel Woolworth

Herald Editor

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