Teller County Gets Hit With More COVID Restrictions

Local Area Reverts Back To “Yellow” Concern Rating; Coronavirus Cases Rising

Rick Langenberg

After weeks of experiencing a decline in COVID-19 activity, and despite an extremely aggressive vaccination effort  with a green end zone in sight,  Teller County has experienced a slight health sacking.

According to the new color-coded coronavirus status format, the area has reverted back to a more restrictive Level Yellow (two levels short of the Level Green the county has sought in recent weeks). This equates to a reduction in capacity levels for restaurants, bars and casinos and many businesses.

But local officials are downplaying the rating, and say this is part of a state-wide trend, and believe the region is headed in the right direction.  Moreover, they cite Teller’s impressive COVID-protective statistics, with the majority of citizens, 65 and over, already being completely vaccinated and nearly 12,000 vaccines delivered by a variety of providers throughout the county.

“It is a setback,” said Teller County Commissioner Erik Stone.  “We don’t want to see more restrictions.” But on the upside,  he doesn’t see this as having much of an impact due to the social distancing requirements already in place. “About the only thing this will change is by having a 1 a.m. last call (for restaurants, bars and casinos),” said the commissioner.

Also, Stone, stressed that the action won’t affect previous actions the commissioners took to ratify a resolution, outlining a call for a return to “normal governance” and giving local governments more authority in handling COVID regulations and related safety programs in their communities.  This was part of a series of mostly symbolic moves the elected leaders in the area took to question executive actions pursued by Colorado Governor Jared Polis.

A Tougher, More Restrictive Rating

But in any case, the county now  must deal with a tougher rating. In an official announcement, the Teller County government announced early last week that “our COVID-19 case counts…have experienced the same slight upturn being seen in many areas of the state, as well as the country. Although our cases are marginally rising, our hospitals are not overwhelmed and cases resulting in deaths are not rising.  CDPHE has advised  these current statistics moves  Teller County from the ‘Blue’ status on the COVID-19 dial to ‘Yellow,” stated county officials.

This rating was accelerated by the development of 39 new cases within a seven-day period, giving  Teller a per capita average of 156 per 100,000 people.

This put the county back in the Yellow zone, identified as one of concern.

Still, the Teller County commissioners believe personal responsibility will play the ultimate defense in combating the COVID situation.  They are urging citizens to get vaccinated if they haven’t already, and to sign up at the county’s COVID website.

Bob Campbell, chairman, of Teller County commissioners, issued the following statement: “We look forward to the time where the state dial ends and the conclusion of the pandemic can be managed at a local level.”

In their announcement, the county commission board say they remain “concerned about the ongoing physical health of our citizens, but also is concerned for the mental and economic health of the community. We continue to encourage all residents and businesses to take personal responsibility for their own health and help fight the spread of COVID-19. Those residents interested in receiving vaccination information, please see which links to the interactive vaccination interest form.”

Stone described  the current state color-dial code system as quite confusing, and believes it is difficult for businesses to adjust to on a weekly basis.  “We really need to get rid of this and to allow for more local control,” added Stone.

According to Stone, the new code ratings establish changes on a seven-day level, while previously it occurred during a 14-day period.   This impacted Teller, as according to reports, their case level took an unusual rise over two days recently. Luckily, Stone local authorities noted that a vast majority of new positive COVID cases didn’t occur for the older at-risk population.

Stone said the county will continue to spearhead more aggressive, massive vaccination clinics.

Clinics in the next two weeks will provide for at least 1,325 additional citizens the opportunity to obtain a vaccination,” according to Interim Healthy Director Martha Hubbard. “As more of our residents are getting vaccinated and with the increasing opportunities to get a vaccine, I am optimistic Teller County is on the path to recovery,” said Hubbard.

Based on actions taken by the governor, anyone over the age of 18 is now eligible for the COVID vaccines. Citizens have a variety of options for obtaining the COVID vaccines, and are advised to check with county and state COVID web sites, and those of key medical providers.  Officials say the key for those interested in getting vaccinated is to sign up on as many waiting lists as possible.

While elected leaders in the area often have divided views on the COVID-19 mandates, such as masks, they are rallying behind the need for residents to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

The surge in cases experienced in Teller is similar to what has occurred in neighboring El Paso County According to reports, El Paso has also seen a surge in COVID activity. In the last seven days, the county’s average number of new cases  has risen to 167, according to the county’s department of health.  Like Teller, El Paso County remains on the Yellow dial.

One big area of concern for region-wide health experts deals with the influx of two highly infectious variant strains of COVID-19. El Paso County has 144 of Colorado’s nearly 900 confirmed cases of the B.1.1.7 strain, first discovered in the United Kingdom.

Living in the Land of Yellow

With the Level Yellow restrictions, these key changes will occur in the short-term.

*Restaurants and seated indoor events (including at casinos) in Level Yellow return to 50% capacity or 150 people per room, whichever is less

*Capacity for most businesses, including gyms, offices, non-critical manufacturing, critical and non-critical retail, and both indoor and outdoor events return to 50% or up to 50 people, whichever is less

*Last Call for alcohol in restaurants is set at 1 a.m.