COVID Inflictions Slowing Down In Teller County; Death Toll Still Concerning Officials

Officials Hope to Avoid Omicron Infiltration

Rick Langenberg

It’s been a mixture of good and bad news on the local/regional COVID front.


On the upside, the trend of COVID-19 inflictions is slowing down slightly locally, but the coronavirus fatalities are still a subject of big concern.  Another big COVID red button topic deals with the prospects of the Omicron variant  making a stride into Teller. Already, one case has been confirmed in Colorado, which is one of a handful of states dealing with the new variant that has triggered national attention and sparked travel bans and other federal regulations.


According to the latest report provided by Cripple Creek Finance Director Paul Harris, who serves on the county’s coronavirus task force, November emerged as the deadliest month for local COVID cases, with 10 deaths associated with the pandemic. Another scary statistic, highlighted by officials, is that out of 43 COVID deaths in Teller County since the pandemic started, nearly 80 percent of these have occurred in 2021.


In addition, November became the second worst month for new cases with 396 inflictions, and the county continued to have a red (high) danger level for community transmission, under new guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


However, cases are slowing somewhat, even in the wake of the Thanksgiving holiday. According to the county’s website, the area tracked 69 cases over a seven day period, which is much improved from earlier numbers in early November. There were a few days when hardly any cases were reported.


Getting Out of the Red Danger Zone


For the first time in recent weeks, Teller was able to climb out of the red zone for the amount of weekly incident reports on a per capita basis. Teller is currently sitting at 290.6 per 100,000 people, which gives the area a yellow designation.  That is a definite improvement.


Under the state’s previous restrictions, a red rating for incident numbers may have led to certain mandated closures, or at the very least, a demand of a county-wide response effort. The numbers for the two-week incident reports weren’t as good, still signaling red numbers, but even these tallies showed signs of improvements.


Other concerns, according to Harris’ report, which is given to the Cripple Creek City Council twice a month, dealt with the increased level of hospitalization and positivity rates.


But overall, Harris spoke positively about the latest COVID findings. “We hope we continue to see a downward trend,” said the finance director, at the close of his report.


The elected leaders agreed.  Cripple Creek has a lot riding on the ability to keep infections away from the gaming district.  During the heart of the pandemic, the casinos had to abide by strict testing and mask requirements, regulations that cost operators thousands of dollars. Also, casino action was shut down altogether for three months.


The city wants to avoid any further restrictions imposed against their major industry. About a year ago at this time, the city and county mounted a serious lobbying effort with the Colorado healthy officials in order to avoid another shutdown of the gaming industry due to state rules in effect at the time.


But Colorado Governor Jared Polis  has shown no desire to issue more mandates that shut down businesses or significant industries, such as gaming.


Officials are still trying to do what they can to encourage residents to get vaccinated, citing statistics that indicate that these shots offer the best way to avoid sickness and death from the epidemic. The county is not set to win any awards for the percentage of eligible residents becoming fully vaccinated, as Teller has barely exceeded the 57 percent mark.


But with the arrival of the Omicron variant that trend could change.


A mobile vaccine bus is scheduled to arrive in various locations in Teller County, under the theme: “It’s time for a comeback, get your vaccine now.” The  mobile vaccine bus is scheduled for extended visits at the Teller County Public Health and Environment  (east parking lot) in Divide 1115 W. Hwy. 24 on Dec. 13 and Dec. 20 from noon to 6 p.m.; and at the Cripple  Creek Welcome Center parking lot off Hwy. 67 on   Dec. 7 and Dec. 21 from noon to 6 p.m. No appointments or insurance is necessary to participate.


Addition vaccine opportunities exist throughout the county.  Check out the county’s COVID website for details.