COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Data compiled by 13 Investigates shows there are mysteries in how COVID-19 spreads in certain Southern Colorado communities.
A little over 15% of the more than 730,000 population in El Paso County has been infected with COVID-19. Meanwhile, health data shows that a significantly higher share of the population in Lincoln County --about 24% of the county's 5,675 residents-- has been infected with the virus amid the pandemic.
13 Investigates spoke with Glen Mays, a health policy professor at the Colorado School of Public Health about factors in the divide.
“Rural communities have achieved lower overall levels of vaccination coverage so that leaves more of the population at risk," Mays said.
Health officials say that may be the reason for more community spread in Lincoln County where 5 out of 10 residents are vaccinated, compared to 6 out of 10 residents who are vaccinated in El Paso County.
However, the same can't be said for Kiowa County. Data analyzed by 13 Investigates shows a little over 5% of the nearly 1,500 population have been infected with the coronavirus, but Kiowa County has a vaccination rate of less than 4 out of 10 residents.
“Those are some puzzling patterns and obviously there is a lot of uncertainty around what can explain those stark differences in community transmission," Mays said.
Experts say rural communities tend to have less access to major healthcare centers and public health departments, which can impact how COVID-19 impacts an area. Health officials also note that the population in rural areas tends to skew older.
“Rural communities are more likely to have underlying health conditions, diabetes, heart disease, abscesses, lung conditions that can really make it difficult to fight off infections," Mays said.
How and why COVID-19 impacts different areas of Southern Colorado is still being studied but health officials continue to tout the vaccine as the best form of protection.
“Even though we are two years into this pandemic, there is still a lot we don’t know and we’re still learning day by day," Mays said.