Delta Variant Surges Across Colorado and In El Paso County

Teller Still Reporting Low New Infection Numbers

Bob Volpe and Rick Langenberg

Cases of the COVID-19, Delta variant are surging in the state and our neighbor to the east, El Paso County, is a hotspot.

Luckily, Teller County has been spared from much of the latest COVID-related attack, at least for now.

Data from the state health department shows that El Paso County has the second most sequences of the Delta variant in the state. The Delta variant now makes up 89 percent of COVID-19 cases in Colorado.

El Paso County, with 328 sampled cases, trails only Mesa County for sampled cases of the Delta variant. In Mesa County nearly 680 cases of the Delta variant have been reported, as well as the first child death in the county, a 15-year-old, infected with the Delta variant before her age group was vaccine eligible.

The most recent numbers show 53-percent of people in El Paso County are fully vaccinated, compared to Denver County’s 69 percent.

On the upside, the  numbers of COVID infections in Teller County are low, based on July figures and according to a report given by a key member of the Teller COVID-19 task force.

As of the latest Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) data from the last week of June, the delta variant made up nearly 90 percent of the specimens randomly tested.

At least 95 percent of the nearly 10,000 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Colorado since mid-January were not vaccinated, according to data released by the CDPHE. A CDPHE spokesperson said the data shows that vaccination is the “best protection” against COVID-19 and the Delta variant spreading across the state and nation.

The numbers from the CDPHE come as data from across the country shows a correlation between vaccinated people being less likely to have severe outcomes from COVID are less likely to be hospitalized and less likely to die of the.

Vaccination rates against COVID-19 have been slowing in El Paso County, leading public health experts to be concerned about the spread of the Delta variant.

With hospitalizations decreasing, and case spread remaining stagnant in recent weeks, those experts aren’t alarmed but are hoping more people get vaccinated to curb the variant’s prevalence.

“There may be a strong correlation between places that have high vaccination rates and low incidence,” said Fadi Youkhana, an epidemiologist with El Paso County Public Health.

El Paso County is one of the lowest-vaccinated in large counties. The county has vaccinated around 53 percent of eligible people.

“We have more people that are eligible to be infected, meaning they are not vaccinated so there is more room for the variant to run its course,” Youkhana said.

The lagging vaccination rate has led to a drastically higher case incidence in El Paso County.

The Delta variant, many epidemiologists say, is leading to increasing case counts across the country.

“It’s not over. We would love for more people to be vaccinated for it to be entirely in the rearview mirror,” said Stephen Goodwin, the chief data strategist for El Paso county Public Health.

Daily vaccinations have decreased since May when, at its peak, there were 38,000 doses being given today. There are still around 5,000 daily doses being given in El Paso County at the start of July, as administering doses moves from large, mass-vaccination sites to smaller offices and clinics.

Infections Down in Teller County

The numbers are not as bad in Teller County, as far as infections.  Cripple Creek Finance Director Paul Harris, a member of the county’s COVID-19 task force, reported at last week’s regular meeting that the overall COVID cases have continued to decrease throughout Teller.  He said the county only has recorded 24 new cases in July, which is must lower than previous months. Cripple Creek, in fact, has only reported one new COVID case in recent weeks.

Harris stated that to date, the region has escaped the thrust of the Delta variant.  He and other officials hope that trend continues, but are encouraging residents to get vaccinated.

In fact, similar to El Paso County, Teller could do much better in the percentage of citizens and residents fully vaccinated, based on Harris’ report. The percentage of fully vaccinated folks in Teller are below those of other urban areas, such as Denver County, and are similar to the numbers of El Paso County. Last week, vaccination clinics were held at the  Farmers Market gathering and at the Cripple Creek Medical Center, with participants becoming eligible for $100 Walmart gift cards.

Teller County officials have expressed no desire to impose any additional safety requirements. The Woodland Park RE-2 School District plans to monitor the situation, but won’t require any mask restrictions (see related press release). Also, Cripple Creek Interim City Administrator Ray White informed the public that all COVID-related capacity restrictions have ended at the Butte Theater for shows.