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El Paso County hopes to curb COVID-19 growth before restrictions return

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Courtesy of: MGN

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- With El Paso County's two-week COVID-19 incidence rate over 217 per 100,000 people, local leaders are scrambling to curb the virus' growth rate before further restrictions are enacted.

An hourlong news conference started at 1 p.m. Friday at the El Paso County Office of Emergency Management to provide more information. Watch below:

County officials said they have until Friday to convince the state that the county can tweak its COVID mitigation plan to handle changing situations such as the current spike in cases -- or risk a return to stricter health orders the state enacted earlier in the pandemic.

"What we will do in that mitigation plan is re-emphasize where those points of contact are, how we're making sure that there are no gaps," said Dr. Robin Johnson, medical director for El Paso County Health. "And we'll keep getting the message out."

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said the catalysts in the current spike are informal groups who aren't following recommended guidelines, and workplace environments where employees "have become lax" with those guidelines.

"Let this serve as a wake-up call," he said. "These next several weeks are critical to get our numbers back to manageable levels before the holiday season, and winter, are at our doorstep."

A bright spot in the situation -- according to Peter Hilts, of the Area Superintendents Association -- is the status of schools in the county.

"In 100,000 students over five counties, we've had virtually no transmission of the virus," he said. "That's because we're scrupulous. Schools are the safest place to be. But if teachers get sick, that affects our ability to provide in-person or hybrid learning. That's why we need your help."

Dr. Bill Plauth, chief medical officer for Penrose-St. Francis Hospital, said advances in have improved the ability of patients to recover from the virus.

"Our hospitalization rates are maybe 50% to 60% of what they were during earlier peaks of the pandemic," he said. "But we don't want it to get any worse. Patients still die of COVID-19."

Officials were asked how they're advising church leaders in light of a recent federal ruling that found mask-wearing and building capacity requirements were violating the Constitutional right of freedom of religion for two Denver area churches.

Dr. Johnson seemed to imply that the situation doesn't apply to local churches in a county that has a spike in COVID cases and is close to the kind of stricter health orders that could limit attendance or close churches entirely.

"Please, wear your mask," she said. "Follow the six feet of social distancing. Wash your hands. And think about the number and frequency of those interactions that you do have."

County Commissioner Mark Waller said the county's interpretation of the ruling is that it applies only to the two Denver-area churches involved and not to all Colorado churches.

"But part of that ruling is that the state was treating these churches differently from so-called critical businesses," he said. "Obviously, we're not going to treat our churches any differently."

On Thursday, El Paso County Commissioners and County Public Health officials had a meeting with Governor Jared Polis and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to discuss how to reduce the rising number of coronavirus cases.

Mark Waller said their conversation with the governor's office was frustrating, adding that the state only gave them a few days to come up with a mitigation plan.

If the plan is not approved by the state, then El Paso County will go from "Safer at Home" level one to level three. This means a lot of businesses -- such as gyms, retail shops, and indoor events -- will be reduced significantly, including reduced capacities to 25%.

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Andrew McMillan

Andrew is the Digital Content Director for Learn more about Andrew here.

Scott Harrison

Scott is a reporter for KRDO. Learn more about Scott here.



  1. “Commissioner Mark Waller says their conversation with the governor’s office was frustrating, adding that the state only gave them a few days to come up with a mitigation plan.”

    Because well thought out planning could only occur after the governor advised the county commissioners they would be required to do their job…

    Good job team, I am so thankful the election is in 11 days.

      1. So you are saying the vaccine which is being developed at record pace is not enough? Plain and simple, the virus will not end until a vaccine is available. You can’t make people social distance other than at the business level. Like the police are going to drive around finding people who have 3 families in their back yard and issue a citation. There isn’t enough jail space for the criminals we already have.

      2. ‘Trump has had no plan’! Screeches the liberals that can’t research the 100’s of things Trump has done during this ‘pandemic’. Payroll protection, meals to children away from school, access to online learning, loans for small businesses, etc and about 80 other acts he has passed. Joe sez wear your mask until I say so! Now that’s a plan!

    1. What has the county commissioners been doing, besides attempting to misappropriate the CARES funding into their pet projects. I mean today has been 7 months since the start of the first shutdown, didn’t you all listen to the scientists and doctors about the second wave? Isn’t it still prudent to come up with alternate contingency plans? Or is the county commissioners so vaper-locked that they don’t know what to do unless their corporate sponsored lobbyists tells them what to do?

      You know I just had a thought, and I can’t believe this isn’t already been implemented. Similar to sports, I think that all municipalities, counties, states, and federal buildings that have been sponsored by Lobbyists should be required place a banner within the building. Furthermore, I believe that every politician that has taken Corporate Lobbyist money should also be required to wear on their business suit at every government event the logos of their sponsors. That way everyone knows who is sponsoring them.

      Additionally, if after 2 years of continuous sponsorship from the same lobbyist, they should be mandated that they must get that lobbyist sponsor logo tattooed on their body, to show their loyalty to their financial benefactor.

  2. Is that 217 WHOLE CASES?? in a population of 800k really? that’s what .5% of the population? suddenly I’m not all that scared….well not like the rest of you sheeple.

  3. You need to re-read the article, paying particular attention to where it states “…incident rate over 217 per 100,000 people,….” It can’t get much clearer than that. Multiplying 217 by 8 (you gave 800k for the population) gives you well over 1600 cases. The big unknown is how many of those will require hospitalization.

  4. also asymptomatic folks who haven’t been tested cuz they don’t know they’re infected and spreading the virus probably the case number is way way higher

    1. Several careless people in my family got it. They were all over 60 and got a cough for 2 days. One lost her sense of taste for 24 hours. The only reason they got tested was because of covid. I can’t tell you the number of times people in our household had coughs in the last 20 years and didn’t bother to go to the clinic.

  5. Cases cases cases! Every damned morning on the news, on the radio. Sorry, we just dont care anymore. My wife got it from work even after following ALL rules put in place (maybe because masks dont effing work?). She even died from it but then she got better (sarcasm on her dying part). Cuz I guess Covid is VERY deadly but not realy THAT deadly. She had symptoms for about 3 days and she said that she’s worked sicker.
    We’ve worn your stupid masks for 4 months, if they were that effective and better than a vaccine (as Dr. Redferd said), shouldnt numbers be near non-existant? C’mon man!

  6. Lets say you’re asymptomatic….. You’ve been doing errands around town, the mask you’ve been breathing into has been hung from your rear view mirror in your car, thrown in the center console, youve handled it dozens of times in and out of stores, you adjust it a few times while shoppinh. In just a few hours youve contaminated your car and anything you’ve touched in the store. That mask has now gone from ‘protecting others’ to infecting any surface it has touched, its literally a sponge. Common sense would tell you the masks actualy help spread disease than stop it.

  7. How about advising people wear actual medical masks that can block the virus?
    The plain cloth and paper masks are to pourous to stop the microscopic virus, everyone knows this and these clowns never talk about it, like it is not a big factor.
    Stop counting people who died from other causes, who coincidentally tested positive for the virus, as COVID19 deaths, if that is occurring.

  8. So If you look at the most important information in the article.
    -Cases are up.
    -Hospitalizations are down.
    -Hospitals are Not close to being overrun.
    -Survival rate is way up.

    The whole point of a shut down or further restrictions should be based on the medical system load. If the hospitals are not overwhelmed and death rates continue to drop I say we are fine with what we are doing. No need for more restrictions.

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