Teller County Winning In Battle Against COVID-19 Delta Invasion

Area Statistics Remain Stable, Despite State Surge

Rick Langenberg

Teller County is hanging tough and faring reasonably well in the latest battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to county officials, Teller is making strides in getting more people vaccinated, and its case load is stabilizing, after a slight hike in late July.  And for right now, Teller appears fairly insulated from the Delta variant invasion.

Despite a big surge in neighboring El Paso County and other parts of the state, Teller elected leaders have made it quite clear:  We aren’t going to impose any more mandates.  In fact, what part of “No Masks”  don’t you understand.

“The state is going to do what it is going to do.  But we aren’t going to impose any more restrictions,” said Teller County Administrator Sheryl Decker.

“We just hope everyone will be nice to each other and respect each other’s decisions. The vaccines are out there for those who are eligible and want them.”

County officials are touting the benefits of $100 gift cards and other perks for those who want to get vaccinated now.

Similar sentiments are echoed by the commissioners, who at last week’s meeting clearly emphasized an earlier letter outlining their “no mandate or vaccine proof” stance.

“It is not an epidemic.  It is an endemic,” said Commissioner Erik Stone, following last week’s meeting. He  believes the country will have to deal with COVID-19, similar to how health officials grappled with polio and chickenpox. “We are going to have to live with it (COVID-19).  It is not going to suddenly go away.”

He says he would like to see medical experts  spending more time addressing, large-scale health issues, such as diabetes and obesity. Statistics show that individuals with bad health conditions have more trouble when getting infected by COVID.

Still, he and the other commissioners are encouraging eligible residents to get the COVID protection shots as soon as possible.

“We have to do everything we can to protect our most vulnerable,” said Stone, who cites impressive vaccination rates in Teller of the 65 and older crowd that now have escalated over the 70 percent margin.

Teller Making Good COVID-19 Strides

On a statistical level, Decker has reported small strides. She said the county, as of the middle of last week, reached a nearly 51 percent rate of complete vaccination among eligible  residents. That is similar to the rates of other rural counties, and is just a few percentage points below El Paso County.

“We are seeing a slight increase in our vaccination numbers,” said Decker at last week’s regular commissioners meeting.

Decker said the county is now averaging nearly 20 COVID cases per week, which translates to;a rate of 72 per 100,000. The county, as of Saturday morning, reported 2,012 cases, and no new cases in the last few days.

“I wish our numbers were better,” said the administrator. “We are hanging in there as best we can.”

On the upside, she said their numbers have taken a decrease in the last week. Teller actually reported a hefty decrease in its overall July COVID infection numbers, according to a report recently given by Cripple Creek Finance Director Paul Harris, a member of the Teller COVID-19 task force. Teller had 73 cases in July, which represents an 18 percent decline from the previous month.

But the one troubling spot cited by Harris was a big increase in the latter part of July, a bump that some attribute to the Delta variant.

Decker, though, attributes this  more to a byproduct of the July 4th celebrations and big crowd gatherings.

According to current statistics, Teller has only recorded eight cases associated with the Delta variant, an element of the COVID invasion that is making health experts across the nation quite nervous.  Requests have been made for mandated vaccination proof rules, or stronger mask regulations.

No masks are required at local government offices or area businesses in Teller, or in schools, when they reopen.

Manitou Springs is the one exception to this no-mask mandate, as the city government is now requiring all employees to  mask up, whether they are vaccinated or not and abide by stern social distancing rules.

On the state-wide level, Governor Jared Polis, in a press conference last week, announced no new restrictions. He opted to let local governments make their own call regarding mask mandates. He stands by earlier efforts advocating local control of pandemic preservation.

“It is our top priority to keep in-person education and for kids to be safe,” said Polis. “The state Board of Education, our superintendents, have asked for authority to tailor these local health policies for their schools. We agree with that, we’re honoring the tradition of local control in these decisions.

Polis continues to remain quite optimistic about the state’s low hospitalization rates, even though cases are increasing.”

But local officials are concerned that this stance could change. Polis has received growing pressure from health experts in Colorado, who are seeking mandatory face covering indoors for students.

The commissioners made it clear last week that Teller is not going to succumb to COVID-19 fears. “Teller County is against mandates,” said Stone.

The commissioners have reiterated that they want to encourage residents to get vaccinated, but are advocating that “all businesses and residents be respectful of each other’s choices and to not create a more divisive atmosphere by requiring proof of vaccination.”