Teller County/Pikes Peak Region Still Reeling From COVID-19 Invasion

Rick Langenberg

Even with a decrease nationwide, the Pikes Peak region and Colorado is still encountering rough waters on the COVID-19 front.

Elected leaders and health officials are hoping for a turn-around soon from the Delta variant surge that has bombarded the area.

In fact, the state now ranks as one of the worst 15 states in the country as far as rising COVID cases, according to a report aired last week on KRDO News.  More  importantly, this has created a shortage of hospital beds in emergency units across the state.

Locally, Teller County by Friday evening reported nearly 2,800 cases and was generating 492 cases per 100,000 on a per capita basis, which is well above the red danger level. But on the upside, the case uptick appeared to ease up in recent days.

Still, the county is poised to set a near record, when it comes to coronavirus inflictions.

During last week’s Cripple Creek Council Meeting, Finance Director Paul Harris, who also serves on the coronavirus task force, apologized for the continual “doom and gloom”  COVID reports. “Unfortunately, we continue to go in the wrong direction,” said Harris.

He stated that Teller County has already exceeded the 300-mark for new cases in October.  As a result, he projected that the county will beat out September infliction numbers, which were rated as the third worst since the pandemic began in March 2020.

The big troubling figure, according to Harris and other local officials, deals with rising level of cases within a seven and 14 day period. Teller is now generating more than 450 cases per 100,000 people, on a per capita  basis. Not good, say local officials and health authorities.

The former red code designation sets the limit at 300, meaning that if the earlier state restrictions were implemented, the county could have gotten hit with a partial business shut-down order. The 14-day numbers aren’t any better, with Teller hitting the near 850-mark.

Harris also noted that hospitalization numbers have increased by 27 percent in the last few weeks.

The latest surge has impacted southern Teller, with Cripple  Creek experiencing 42  COVID cases in October, based on recent numbers, representing a 100 percent increase from the previous month.

In response to these statistics, Mayor Milford Ashworth, who actually was a COVID victim himself, stated at last week’s meeting that he hoped these figures could get turned around soon. These same hopes have been conveyed by other local leaders and officials.

The hike isn’t just reserved to Teller County, with neighboring El Paso  County experiencing nearly 400 cases per day and getting hit with a slew of new COVID deaths.

Still, even with the somber news, officials are showing no signs of retreat in sticking to the philosophy of taking personal responsibility and imposing no vaccine mandates. The El Paso County commissioners voted last week to enact a resolution, opposing the state and federal government requirements for COVID-19 vaccinations for employees at Colorado’s licensed health care facilities. They argued that the mandates are contributing to staff shortages at hospitals, and represent an invasion on personal freedoms.

The resolution, however, is merely symbolic, and has no legal bearing.

This stand is similar to comments frequently made by the Teller County commissioners, who have staunchly opposed government and business-related vaccination mandates and additional COVID restrictions.  At the same time, they urged all residents to respect each other’s respective views.

Teller is still not setting any records for its vaccination numbers, with the county still only recording a 54.6 percent mark for the percentage of residents fully vaccinated.

The county, though, is heavily promoting the availability of additional booster shots. County officials say a lot more people are taking advantage of these shots.

Actually, the county’s vaccination statistics for the main vulnerable population (those 65 and up) are much better.