Teller County Experiences Another Rough Week on the COVID Battlefield

Area Again Waving a Red Coronavirus Danger Flag

Rick Langenberg

The COVID-19 invasion in Teller County, fueled by the Delta variant, is continuing at a relentless pace, and placing a huge burden on public health officials.

By Friday morning, Teller got walloped with 103 new cases within a seven-day period, amounting to 412 per 100,000 on  a per capita basis.  That statistic is troubling and well above pre-September numbers, now giving Teller a red flag danger warning.    During one day last week, the county recorded close to 40 COVID cases, setting a record for the highest single-day total in a month.

The region’s hospitalization and positive testing numbers are also high.

According to the latest statistics, Teller has  exceeded the 2,700 number in total cases since the epidemic started, and has recorded 25 deaths.

But Teller’s rise in COVID cases is part of a regional trend, as neighboring El Paso County has gotten bombarded with inflictions, with hundreds of new cases per day.

“We are not alone,” said Teller County Administrator Sheryl Decker.

That said, she admitted that Teller officials don’t have a solution to the  the huge spike in COVID numbers, a trend that accelerated in September.  “It is community-wide,” said Decker, who noted that no single outbreak was attributed to the rise in cases. “We just don’t have the answer.”

The same basic origin numbers regarding the epidemic  remain the same, with Woodland Park serving as the COVID hotspot,  tracking 56 percent of the Teller cases, followed by Florissant and Divide.  Cripple Creek and Victor are the COVID low points, with only 7 and 2 percent of the cases respectively.

On the upside, more older folks are opting for the additional booster shots, now available for many citizens 65 years of age and up and those with certain health conditions.  On the county’s COVID website, the booster shot availability is heavily promoted. “We heavily encourage people (who are qualified) to get the booster shot,” said Decker.

These shots are easily available  through Teller Public Health  and at area pharmacies and major health providers.

An Issue of Personal Choice

At the same time, the same message from the county commissioners is showcased on its COVID website, indicating a hands-off approach towards potential vaccination mandates and more restrictions.  The subject of  mandates has gotten quite political in the last month and a half, and is one reason sparking much interest in the Woodland Park and Cripple Creek school board races. The commissioners have opposed the issuing of any mandates by local governments or by businesses.

The commissioners, at their regular meetings, have encouraged residents to get vaccinated if they have health concerns, citing the positive results for those who take the shots.  But they cite the issue as one of personal choice, and are asking for individuals to respect each other’s decision.

Teller is still not going to win any grand prizes for its total vaccination percentage numbers, with the county only recording a 54 percent total of COVID-fully vaccinated individuals.  But the stats are much better for the vulnerable population, those 65 and up.

Teller’s COVID vaccination numbers are similar to those of other rural areas.

Decker said the county has received no word of additional restrictions in the works from the state. The state has taken a hardline stance in requiring health-care workers to get vaccinated,  if they want to retain their jobs.

Health officials, though, are heavily bombarded with COVID-related duties.

The rise in cases has impacted Teller County Public Health, which announced last week that it no longer had the capability to pursue contact tracing, and advised inflicted individuals to isolate themselves immediately and advise those they have been in contact of their positive exposure.

“Teller County Public Health and Environment is currently experiencing a high volume of cases and may  no longer be able to conduct contract tracing for all exposed individuals,” stated the agency on the county’s website. “If you are a confirmed COVID-19 case (test positive), you may be contacted  for a phone  interview.  Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 are infectious and are required to isolate. Teller County Public Health and Environment recommends that confirmed positive individuals reach out to their close contacts to inform them of  their positive exposure to COVID-19 with directions to quarantine.”

The county administrator also stated that inflicted individuals also need to monitor their health situation, as best they can, and don’t shy away from seeing the doctor.

“Take care of yourself. We are not done with the virus,” said Decker.