El Paso County health officials urge citizens to wear masks, attend fewer large events to help get cases down

El Paso County is currently 156 cases per 100,000 people.
Published: Jul. 30, 2020 at 9:37 AM MDT|Updated: Jul. 30, 2020 at 10:38 AM MDT
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - The numbers are not good.

Health officials are warning El Paso County may have to go back to some restrictions if the cases don’t start going down.

“The most important thing is that our goal is not to have us close down, obviously.”

El Paso County Public Health Medical Director Dr. Robin Johnson is calling on everyone to do their part in slowing the spread of coronavirus and getting the numbers down.

“The [cities/states/countries] who have been able to embrace prevention in wearing masks and such were able to move forward and will have in the end, I think, have more ease in their freedoms that they choose to get to embrace.”

She says the health department may have to start making some tough recommendations.

“We recognize that if there are more measures that are needed. Our goals to do so and step-wise fashion to avoid, you know, the dramatics of things we saw really early on in this pandemic.”

To put the county’s data in perspective, the state considers a county to be in the red zone when it exceeds 100 cases per 100,000 people for two weeks. El Paso County is currently at 156 cases per 100,000 and stands at fourth in the state for most confirmed cases.

There are some glimmers of optimism, however. Our news partners at The Gazette report cases did drop slightly over a recent three-day period, leading state health officials to opt not to impose new restrictions for now, despite the county failing to rein in cases during the two weeks it was given earlier in the month to do so or risk losing variances.

“Over the last 14 days we are still continuing to kind of tick up upward although the rate on that increase is slow, and we actually looked like we might be plateauing a little over the weekend, but again it’s popped up again at the beginning of the week,” Johnson said.

And if people start taking social distancing and wearing masks more seriously, the county could start to see numbers go down again like they were in May and June, she told 11 News.

“We expect to have some kind of low-level background noise of this virus. ... If we can maintain it at those low levels, then we just continue that monitoring and we’re all doing our job to prevent and spread. But when we start seeing those numbers go up, the burden of disease gets to the point where it can become uncontrolled and that is always worrisome.

“... It’s easy to become a little cavalier in general, but then when it reaches a certain threshold of disease burden or gets into a particular vulnerable population, it’s really quite deadly and so it kind of has this way of maintaining its malicious intent while setting much of our population at ease.”

Bottom line: Johnson says all citizens need to pitch in so cases can stay low and the economy can stay open.

“We are really working to avoid an on and off switch,” Johnson said of shutting down some of the businesses reopened under the variances. “We would hope that people would embrace this individually and begin to backtrack a little bit on the number of events and the size of those events, really layering on those preventative measures we talked about with a mask and physical distancing and staying home if you’re sick and staying home if you’re under quarantine and you’ve been exposed to someone who sick.

“... We can only do so much as an agency with the messaging and advocacy. It really takes everyone coming alongside and joining us with their individual action. It’s like your vote matters, your action here matters, and you will choose some of this future with us by how you layer your prevention or not.”

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