Teller County Commissioners Hit Red Alert Button Regarding COVID Surge

Board leaders Want Residents to Limit Thanksgiving and Holiday Gatherings

~ by Bob Volpe ~

During last week’s meeting of the Teller County commissioners, the commission leaders emphasized the huge rise in coronavirus cases locally.

They stressed that this is part of a national and state trend, but contended that this surge could have dire consequences unless residents exhibit more personal responsibility. This is part of a continual theme the commissioners have stressed since the COVID epidemic struck last winter. They have strived to put the onus on individual residents and business operators, instead of having mandated state restrictions and partial closures.

Commissioner Norm Steen said, “In the last 14 days cases have risen by 163 new cases. If you really look at our case count over the past three weeks to a month, Teller County has doubled.”

He then put the numbers in perspective in relation to the county’s population. Taking that into account our total case counts to date are only .02-percent of the total population.

He did stress the need to stabilize cases to keep the numbers down in order to, “keep our economy moving.” Steen said, “There are some things we can do.”

Teller has been slapped with a “Level Orange” designation that only allows many businesses, such as restaurants, to operate at a 25 percent indoor facility capacity. If the county reaches the “Level Red” level, then additional restrictions, such as no indoor dining, period, could come into play. Plus, the casinos would then most likely have to shut down.

Steen advocated limiting gathering sizes over the holidays, and awareness at events. “Just be mindful of what we can do, each and every one of us,” said Steen.

When Teller County Administrator Sheryl Decker gave her report, she continued to update the commission on the COVID situation. She broke down the location within the county as to where cases are being reported. She stated of the 463 cases reported at the time of the meeting, 292 cases in the Woodland Park area, or 63-percent, Cripple Creek has 25 cases or 5-percent, Divide 66 or 14-percent, Florissant at 69 cases or 15-percent, and Victor at 8 cases or 2-percent.

Hospitalizations have climbed to 34, according to Decker. Since last Thursday there have been 20 new hospitalizations. As of November 17,  there are still six individuals in the hospital. She said, “That is a 7.39-percent hospitalization rate.” The county death rate from the virus remains at four individuals, which is quite low compared to other counties.

According to health officials, an outbreak is described as is two cases at a location or event. Currently, active outbreaks two or more cases occurred recently at Andrew Wommack Ministries, Animal Medical Center of Woodland Park, City Market, Cripple Creek/Victor Mine, Florissant Fossil Beds, Gateway and Summit elementary schools and the Wildwood Casino. An outbreak remains active until 28 days have passed, since symptoms occurred in the last case reported.

Facilities where outbreaks have occurred and been resolved are: Andrew Wommack Ministries for their Summer Family Bible Camp and workplace/college/events; city of Woodland Park; Just for Kids Daycare; Teller County jail and Tractor Supply.

Decker also informed the commission that the COVID testing location will be moved from Gold Hill Square South Shopping Center to Hayden Divide Park in Divide. She explained this was necessary due to the high volume of traffic at the Gold Hill site, which has been used also for a temporary COVID surge hospital area.

Hayden Divide Park will now be closed to visitors (except those to be tested) Monday through Friday but will be open holidays and weekends. Testing hours will likely be from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., but these hours have not been confirmed at this time. The move will take place on November 23.

Praise for Efforts to Keep Local Casinos Open

The commissioners also lauded the efforts by the public and county officials for their victory to keep casinos open in Cripple Creek. “This was a victory we all share. Cities, legislators, local elected officials, casino operators and associations, a lot of work went into it,” said Teller County Commission Chairman Marc Dettenrieder. In arguing their case for the casinos to remain open, with only slot machines operating since June 15, the commissioners stated that just 5-percent of Teller County’s total cases had been traced to the Cripple Creek area.

“It was quite the rush of communication and correspondence that transpired this past weekend,” Dettenrieder said. “In the final hour we got the news.”

The approval by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment classified the casinos as indoor events and limited the number of people allowed inside to 50, with masks and social distancing.

Dettenrieder reminded everyone that this approval is still a fragile victory and that individual responsibility is needed by everyone to keep the case numbers down.