COLORADO SPRINGS — Health officials in El Paso County will meet Friday with officials from the state health department and governor's office to discuss the rate at which COVID-19 is currently spreading in the community and potential courses of action moving forward.
The county is currently rated as Level 1, Safer at Home under the state's new COVID-19 Dial. However, 6.5 percent of COVID tests administered during the past two weeks have come back positive. That positivity rate is higher than the 5 percent maximum recommended to remain at Level 1. Additionally, the community has recorded approximately 270 cases per 100,000 residents during the same two-week period which is also higher than the 75 per 100,000 recommended to remain at Level 1.
Many businesses can remain open at Level 2. However, stricter capacity limits are required. The thought of increasing restrictions did not sit well with several members of the community who signed up to speak at the El Paso County Board of Health monthly meeting Wednesday. At least 72 people showed up at the health department to give public comments in person. Others shared their comments virtually.
Stacy Adair spoke with a group of people who held signs protesting the closure of schools and other COVID-related restrictions outside of the Citizens Service Center before the meeting began.
"We want to let them know what our feelings are," Adair said. "We have a representative government and we need our representatives to know how their policies are affecting people."
Beth Fisher is one of roughly 1,300 members of a group called Medical Autonomy Colorado. They believe that state and local governments should recognize the bodily autonomy of their citizens.
Fisher doesn't want new restrictions placed on county residents. In fact, she thinks the government should ease the restrictions that are already in place.
"We would like to see free and open space and everything returning to reasonable conditions and normal," Fisher said.
Many of the people who spoke at the meeting shared personal stories of how the restrictions have affected them personally. Keri Hardin is a small business owner working in the event planning industry. She points out that small businesses have been disproportionately impacted by government bans and lockdowns compared to large corporations.
"I'm here today because the restrictions that are in place have led to over 8,000 businesses dissolving with the Secretary of State just in the second quarter alone," Hardin said.
Brigitte Malfitano, a student and Colorado Springs Christian Schools, wanted the board to know about the negative impacts restrictions have on mental health.
"I've seen so many suicides, depression, anxiety, and so many students go through self-harm because of these shutdowns. El Paso County was already one of the highest counties for suicides," Malfitano said.
Board members generally do not answer questions during the public comments portion of the meeting. During her presentation to the board, Public Health Director Susan Wheelan pointed out that the county has to abide by the state guidelines during this state of emergency.
"We are subject to the state's dial, the state's metrics, and the guidelines that they have set forth," she said.
The County has already put a mitigation plan in place. It includes expanding the availability of COVID testing with three new locations opened in Fountain, Monument, and Falcon/Peyton.
The department has hired additional staff and is planning to purchase advertising on social media sites and Spanish language radio stations to help spread the word about healthy practices and testing.
There are four community-based drive-thru testing sites operating in the county. The addresses and hours are as follows:
811 N. Santa Fe Avenue
Fountain CO, 80817
Monday - Friday 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Rock Island Regional Trailhead
7281 McLaughlin Road
Falcon, CO 80831
Tuesday and Thursday 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.
25 Jefferson Street
Monument, CO 80132
(Testing will be in the southwest parking lot at the corner of Lincoln Avenue and N. Jefferson Street in the church rectory)
Monday, Wednesday, Friday 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.
The Citadel Mall parking lot south of JCPenney
750 Citadel Dr. East
Colorado Springs, CO 80909
Tuesday - Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.