All Public Health is Local: Lessons From Eagle County During the First 2 Years of the Coronavirus Disease-2019 Pandemic

Med Care. 2022 Aug 1;60(8):596-601. doi: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000001736. Epub 2022 May 27.


Background: During the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic cumulative United States COVID-19 deaths per capita were higher than all other large, high-income nations, but with substantial variation across the country.

Objective: The aim was to detail the public health response during the pandemic in Eagle County, Colorado.

Research design and measures: Observational study using pre-COVID-19 county public health metrics. Pandemic actions were recorded from a narrative summary of daily phone consultations by a county-wide taskforce and interviews. Outcomes obtained from local, state, and nationally reported databases.

Methods: Eagle County began with a life expectancy of 85.9, low all-cause age-adjusted death rates equal for both White and Latinx populations, a high household median income, and other prepandemic advantages. It also launched an innovative, independent county-wide taskforce lead by experienced mid-level managers. The taskforce implemented rapid communication of decision consequences, made immediate course corrections without traditional organizational approvals or contradictory political pressures.

Results: Eagle County was first in Colorado to obtain Personal Protective Equipment and to establish a drive-through testing facility. The COVID-19 case fatality rate was 0.34%. The sole intensive care unit never reached maximum capacity. By March 2022, Eagle County had administered at least 1 vaccine dose to 100% of the population and 83% were fully vaccinated.

Conclusions: It is not possible to directly attribute superior outcomes to either the baseline characteristics of Eagle County or its innovative taskforce design and deployment. Rather this report highlights the potential impact that improving the baseline health status of US citizens and permitting novel problem-solving approaches by local public health officials might have for the next pandemic.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Colorado
  • Coronavirus*
  • Eagles*
  • Humans
  • Pandemics / prevention & control
  • Public Health
  • United States / epidemiology