Officials Gearing Up for Final Fight Against Pandemic
By all accounts, Teller County and the rest of the country teetered on the brink of a potential health disaster, courtesy of a once in 100-year pandemic crisis.
Locals were afraid to get out, grappled with conflicting information about COVID-19 testing from the state and federal government and scrambled to get vaccination appointments. And to top it off, the war over protective masks waged on non-stop.
Last week, the county commissioners and the Teller County Department of Public Health and Environment honored the front-line of local volunteers and workers who came to the county’s defense. More than anything, this hefty group of mostly senior citizens helped calm growing tensions among residents regarding the pandemic.
There was no shortage of awards at last week’s April 14 meeting, as officials from the Teller Department of Public Health enthusiastically handed out appreciation certificates to more than 20 citizens. They labeled this army of helpers as nothing less than the heroes of the county, who each played a strong role in assisting residents during the crisis.
“It was scary,” said Teller County Commission Chairman Dan Williams, who just started his stint as commissioner, when the protective campaign against COVID-19 kicked into high gear. “We had no protective gear,” he added in describing the initial scramble for personal protection equipment.
Teller jumped into action with establishing a make-shift hospital at the Gold Hill Square Center.
At the same time, he said the county didn’t want to politicize the situation and tried to “get divisiveness out of Teller County,” by stressing the importance of personal responsibility in combating COVID. Teller leaders refrained from enacting mandates, advocating the importance of personal choice. But they also didn’t hesitate in stressing statistics, indicating the success of vaccines in protecting individuals from getting sick or dying from COVID.
This often put more pressure on front-line workers. “We have great people. We found this amazing team,” said Williams, when addressing a room-full of Teller volunteers and citizens, who helped out during the crisis.
Besides serving on the front-line, some of the citizens helped arrange vaccination appointments for residents, often calling or making contact with several thousand people a week.
Battle Against COVID Improving; But Far From Over
On the upside, the battle against COVID has eased up, with the county displaying much better statistics and trending out of the red danger zone. The county’s seven day incident record on a per capita basis is tracking at 64 per 100,000 people, which is down dramatically from several months ago.
Cripple Creek Finance Director Paul Harris, a member of the county’s COVID advisory board, outlined a much improved scenario during the most recent COVID report. Reduced hours have been put into place for the county test sites in Divide and Cripple Creek.
But Williams and Public Health Director Michelle Wolff indicated the fight is far from over. Concerns have developed over more COVID-related subvariants popping up, even though the latest outbreaks aren’t nearly as fatal. “We are cautiously optimistic,” said Williams. He described the county as entering the “last fight” over COVID.
According to the latest figures posted on the county’s COVID website, Teller has recorded close to 5,000 cases since the pandemic started and 57 deaths. It has been averaging several new cases per day.
Still, officials aren’t ready to relax too much in the fight against COVID. Residents over 50 are encouraged to take the newest booster shot, referred to as the 2nd COVID-19 booster vaccine. This shot can be obtained too by individuals 12 years and older who are moderately to severely Immunocompromised (i.e. current cancer or cancer treatment, HIV, etc.) are also eligible for the 2nd booster dose.
Appointments can be arranged at local pharmacies and via the county’s COVID website, and through clinics offered by Teller County Public Health and Environment.
Eligible individuals may receive the second booster dose a minimum of four months after the first booster dose. Appointments are available on the “Vaccine Scheduling” tab on the county’s COVID web site. Most local pharmacies also provide COVID booster vaccines, subject to availability.