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Ski counties seeing huge surge of COVID cases

A news release said the Summit County Board of Health was considering a mask mandate, though the release said that would put a burden on frontline workers.

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo — Tourists and residents in Summit County got a surprise alert on their phones Monday – alerting them to record high COVID cases and encouraging them to wear masks and get vaccinated if they haven’t.

This past week, the county has seen an average of a quarter of tests return positive results. On Sunday, 35% of tests were positive.

Despite the increase, Summit County, which houses several popular ski resorts, doesn’t have a mask mandate. Nearby Eagle and Pitkin counties, which have each also seen a recent bump in cases, have mandates on the books.

A news release late Monday evening said the Summit County Board of Health was considering a mandate, though the release said such a mandate would put a burden on frontline workers in the county who would have to enforce it.

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“It’s eerily familiar to March and April of 2020 when the ski towns were also the first spots in Colorado to really become hot spots for COVID,” said Dr. David Mintzner, a physician at a Denver hospital who has worked in the COVID ward since the pandemic started.

Mintzer traveled to Breckenridge with his family, including his parents who are in their mid-70s, early last week.

“We arrived at the hotel, it was packed. Every room was sold out,” Mintzer said. “We were surprised that not a soul at the hotel in Breckenridge had a mask or really seemed to be taking any precautions.”

“I wish I had done more of my homework. I didn’t realize that Summit County didn’t have a mask mandate. I knew the numbers were going up and I just assumed they were taking precautions. If I had known that we probably would have reconsidered.”

The surge in cases prompted the town of Breckenridge to close nearly all of its municipal buildings on Monday, sending employees who can to work from home until further notice.

“It was in the best interest of our staff and our community if we didn’t have all of our employees back in the office today,” said Shannon Haynes, the deputy town manager for Breckenridge. “The last thing we need is to be a super spreader event at town hall because we had all of our employees in.”

“It is sort of flipping a switch and going back to a place we had hoped we wouldn’t have to go again.”

Colorado’s first reported COVID case was in Summit County in early March 2020. A man in his 30s travelled to Colorado for a ski trip. He tested positive after skiing at Keystone and Vail and sought help at a medical center in Frisco.

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