PUEBLO — Pueblo County has seen over 200 positive coronavirus cases in the last seven days. Now, October has the highest number of cases for the entire year and Pueblo is at risk of losing their variances, which would be another economic hit.
Up to this point, Pueblo has had a relatively low amount of COVID-19 cases in the community. Unfortunately, over the last couple of weeks, numbers have taken a turn for the worse. As of Oct. 20, there were 413 positive cases reported, which is more than any month so far.
Currently, Pueblo County is at the Safer at Home - Level 2: Concern on the Colorado COVID-19 dial. However, numbers are pushing the county toward Level 3: High-Risk stage.
"That means that businesses would be at 25% capacity. Our variances would go away... So please, everyone step up and help," said Public Health Director for Pueblo County Randy Evetts.
Pueblo County was notified on Friday, Oct. 16, by the state health department that there must be changes in their metrics in two weeks, otherwise, they will have to move to greater restrictions. The two-week time period started on Friday, and according to those with the state health department, they notify counties after three days of elevated metrics. After the two weeks, if metrics are still outside of the Level 2 range, Pueblo would have to submit a mitigation plan to the state.
Local Pueblo leaders urged citizens to treat the holidays differently this year. They believe a source of the spread has been small family gatherings, which have gradually grown larger as time has passed.
"The choices you make around the Thanksgiving holiday will affect Christmas. Spending Thanksgiving with your extended family in a large group might mean that a member of your family is going to spend Christmas in the ICU or on a ventilator. I think you need to take that into consideration this year as you make those holiday plans," said Pueblo Mayor Nick Gradisar.
Pueblo County Public Health and Environment, along with the city and county, are working to hire more people to the health department to help with things like contact tracing, case investigation, and enforcement.
Those with Public Health discussed the time it takes to develop a vaccine normally, which is around two to three years. However, certain platforms have spread that process up, and they anticipate the vaccine could be made available for high-risk populations by the end of the year. They hope it could be ready for the general public by next year.
"But guess what? The vaccine is not going to be 100% effective. We're still going to have to use the same precautions... Right now, less than 50% of people get the flu vaccine. My guess is that a lot of people won't take the COVID vaccine as well," said Dr. Christopher Urbina, the medical officer for Pueblo County Public Health and Environment.
Familiar precautions, like social distancing, good hygiene, and wearing a face mask are all encouraged by Pueblo County officials. However, many said the people of Pueblo have been working hard to follow those guidelines.
"Most people are wearing masks. Every once in a while you run into somebody who's not, but I think overall, yes, they're doing a great job," said Oliver Sample, who has lived in Pueblo for 64 years.
Dr. Urbina did say there have been very few positive results among those tested from the homeless population.