COVID-19 Pandemic Numbers Escalate to High Danger Levels in Teller County

County Records Third Worst Month Since Start of Epidemic

Rick Langenberg

Despite a slight dip in infection numbers on a national and state level, Teller County can’t quite escape the Delta variant invasion, with the local area experiencing the Red COVID-19 danger level and cases rising by nearly 200 percent in the last month .

And for the first week of October, the coronavirus attack hasn’t gotten much better, with 63 new inflictions in just five days. Moreover, the region has experienced six deaths in the last five weeks.

If the state’s former color-coded designation levels were imposed, the county could be looking at a shutdown period for many businesses, according to certain previous COVID guidelines.

Still, county officials are staunchly against imposing any more restrictions, and are making it clear they oppose business and government-related mandates.  In fact, a protest rally against vaccination mandates, held Saturday morning in Woodland Park, attracted many followers.  It was called March Against Mandates.

Elected leaders have mostly taken a hands-off approach, citing this issue as a matter of individual and personal choice.

“It’s not our job to tell people what to do,” said Teller County Commission Chairman Bob Campbell, at last week’s regular meeting, when a brief COVID discussion occurred.

“We encourage vaccinations,” said Commission Vice-chairman Dan Williams. “But we are respectful of each other’s opinion.”

“We don’t support mandates,” stressed Commissioner Erik Stone.  However, in a more cautionary tone, Stone noted that if individuals are worried about their health and those of family members, then the practical solution  is pretty clear:  Get Vaccinated. “If you have any concerns (about your health situation), you should consider vaccination. The outcomes are much better… We respect people’s choices.”

This was a point Stone stressed during a visit by Colorado Governor Jared Polis. Instead of slapping the region with mandates, Stone advocated the need to give individuals needed health information, showing that COVID vaccinations work, and they can lead to more protection.

However, the current COVID  numbers aren’t good for Teller County and the Pikes Peak region, and officials are hoping for a turn-around soon in the current  COVID tide, fueled by the Delta variant. That sentiment was expressed at last week’s meeting by Teller County Administrator Sheryl Decker.  She stated that Teller has now exceeded the 2,500-case level, and has experienced a big spike over the last month.

“They are climbing,” said Decker, in talking about the COVID case level for Teller County.

Terrible Month For COVID

In a report delivered to the Cripple Creek City Council last week, Finance  Director Paul Harris, who serves on the county’s coronavirus task force, delivered some more somber COVID statistics that raised a few eyebrows by elected leaders.

“September was the third worst month of the entire pandemic for our area,” said Harris, in his latest report.  According to Harris, the county got hit with 339 new cases in September, which compares to 115 for the previous  month.  This marks a 195 percent increase.

And sadly, Harris reported five COVID-related deaths in the last month.

As for a better trend this month, Harris wasn’t that optimistic, based on current statistics. “October is off to a bad start, with 63 new cases in just five days.  Unfortunately, there has already been another death in the first week of October”.

And under the new CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) level of community transmission,  Teller was most recently rated as very high, putting it  into the red zone. Teller’s main trouble area involves the level of cases on a per capita basis. Harris stated that Teller’s two-week cumulative incident rate recently  shot up to 797 per 100,000 people.

That figure is scary, and if the state used its former color dial system, the county could be staring at a shutdown period.

In another area of concern, Teller is recording a high COVID positivity rate (among those tested).

These statistics were somewhat downplayed at last week’s commissioners meeting.  Decker attributed the Delta variant as the source of the rise in cases.

On the upside, Stone stated that the most vulnerable people in Teller (those 65 years of aga and up)  are well-vaccinated, with more than 75 percent of this age group taking the COVID prevention shots. But on a county-wide basis, the county is still only recording a 54 percent vaccination level.

However, more people are jumping on the vaccination band-wagon in the last two weeks, based on statistics presented by Decker.

The number of unvaccinated citizens across the state, who are currently filling intensive care beds across Colorado hospitals, creating a near saturation crisis, has irked Polis. “Some will make it, but it will be a harrowing few days and weeks. We wish them well in their recovery, but we also wish that their misery helps get the message out on why people should be vaccinated,” stated Polis, according to a report in The (Colorado Springs) Gazette.

The county has upped its effort to vaccinate more citizens, and now offers the COVID-19 booster shots, available from Pfizer for those who qualify. Those eligible, such those residents 65 years of age and older, or  having underlying health conditions, just need to make an appointment with Teller County Public Health. These shots are also available at a number of  local pharmacies. Visit the county’s COVID-related website for more details.