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'A turn for the worst' health officials say as local COVID-19 numbers continue to rise

It could mean turning back the COVID-19 dials for El Paso and Pueblo counties.
Posted at 10:42 PM, Oct 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-15 09:18:41-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — Health officials from both El Paso and Pueblo counties say both counties are seeing COVID-19 numbers on the rise. And it could mean turning back where they sit on the state’s COVID-19 dial.

They say they believe the rise is, in part, because many are simply tired and ready for things to go back to normal.

"We've definitely seen a turn for the worst with our data in the last week or two,” said Randy Evetts, Public Health Director for Pueblo County Department of Public Health and Environment. "We've seen more hospitalizations in the last few days than we've seen in previous months."

Pueblo County has seen 1,439 cases so far and 39 deaths. The numbers in El Paso County aren’t looking good either. As of Wednesday, El Paso County has seen 7,908 cases and 187 deaths.

"We have seen increasing numbers in our incidence as well as our positivity rate,” said Dr. Robin Johnson, Medical Director for El Paso County Public Health.

It’s a trend the entire state seems to be seeing.

"Outbreaks are at an all-time high in the state,” Evetts said.

Gov. Jared Polis said earlier this week that Colorado's three-day positivity rate for COVID-19 testing has exceeded 5%, a key threshold health officials have warned would be too high in the state's efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus.

The big question is, why?

"I think there's probably multiple factors that are driving this,” Johnson said. “It's colder weather, so some of our activities are moving indoors."

"Our social distancing is decreasing,” Evetts said. “Mask wearing is becoming a little less than what it was."

"COVID fatigue is real, and we're all a bit weary,” Johnson said.

Pueblo Mayor Nick Gradisar said last week that Puebloans are relaxing on safety measures, creating the "perfect conditions" for the virus to spread quickly.

Each county has a dial showing where it is in the reopening process. Right now, Pueblo is currently in Level 2 Safer-at-Home on the statewide dial system introduced last month while El Paso County is in Level 1 Safer-at-Home.

"If we get an increase in those numbers over time, we will actually ratchet back to a more restrictive level,” Evetts said.

To make sure that dial doesn't turn back, they say we have to keep doing what we’ve already been doing. For starters, when you come inside to warm up this fall you still need to make sure you're wearing a mask if you're in public. but you also need to make sure you're still keeping that six feet of distance no matter where you are.

Experts say it's time to realize the virus isn’t going anywhere, especially when you combine the weather with the upcoming holiday season.

"Preventive measures are our new normal,” Johnson said.

And we all still have to keep doing our part, even if we're worn out.

"Infection control is about all the little things we do that add up,” Evetts said. “It's not about one big thing, it's about all of the little things that we do."

They also said, with cold weather comes flu season, and this year it’s really important to get your flu shot, not only to keep people out of hospitals, but also so you’ll have a better idea if your symptoms are from COVID-19, or the flu.