CROWLEY COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) - The COVID-19 rural fight in Crowley County continues as the community experiences an increase in virus cases -- 20 percent of the county's 3,200 population have contracted the virus since March 2020.
“It consists of four small towns. It’s more of a ranching community now. We have two prisons," Commission Chair Blaine Arbuthnot said.
Officials say pandemic impacts on the small Southeastern Colorado community are unique.
“It didn’t affect us near as much as other counties because a lot of what we have are simply the essentials. We don’t have a tremendous amount of shops and restaurants," Arbuthnot said.
Federal CARES Act funding helped the few shops and restaurants after the shutdowns. The County Commission Chair says the community is ready to put the pandemic behind them, despite an increase in cases recently.
“They are sick of it. They want things to get back to normal as all of us do. We have several who just, I don’t want to say they don’t believe in it, but they don’t believe in some of the requirements the health department put out," Arbuthnot explained.
Twenty-five residents have died after contracting the virus. The grief of those deaths lingers.
“I belong to a coffee club and every morning we’d meet and within a year, four of us five are dead; three from COVID," the commission chair said.
There are no vaccine or mask mandates in the rural county. The commission passed a resolution supporting personal choice on both virus mitigation measures this fall.
Data compiled by 13 Investigates shows that one out of five Crowley County residents have been infected with COVID. About 47% of the population in the county is fully vaccinated. These numbers don't include inmates incarcerated in two Department of Corrections facilities located in Crowley County. Inmates account for the vast majority of the COVID-19 cases listed on the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's website, with roughly 650 cases being contracted by Crowley County residents.
“With both the infection rate and individuals that got their shots. At some point, you would think you’d get to the herd immunity. It appears the disease will not go away. Perhaps, with the immunities and the shots, it becomes more of a flu-type symptom versus ending up in the hospital and fighting for your life," Arbuthnot said.
Officials believe the new rise in cases could be connected to recent weddings and funerals. As the county pushes through a new wave of COVID-19, the commission chair urges caution.
“You know, everyone just needs to be cautious. If you have some underlying issues you need to wear a mask and pay attention to where you’re going," Arbuthnot said.