EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. — The El Paso County coroner has been on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19 since it first came to the state, and he’s watched the virus’ recent surge.
“The vast majority of outbreaks at this point or spreading events are those informal gatherings with family, friends, families getting together, neighbors getting together,” Dr. Leon Kelly said.
As of this writing, Colorado’s positivity rate is at a seven-day average of 12.18%. Health officials recommend keeping it at or below 5% to keep the virus under control. Hospitalizations, which have risen in recent weeks, are now above the level they were at during the virus’ first surge in April.
The El Paso County jail has recently been home to one of the largest outbreaks in the state, with at least 911 inmates and 73 workers testing positive for the virus.
"We have exhausted pretty much all of the weapons we have to deploy short of public health napalm which is lockdowns, shutdowns which nobody wants to go to,” Kelly said.
He said businesses aren’t driving the outbreaks, and that what happened at the El Paso County jail is proof of what can happen when the virus is in an environment where people are close together.
“The businesses … are not the problem … that’s not where we’re seeing our outbreaks … that’s not where we are seeing our issues,” Kelly said. “Our cases are being driven by individuals.”
As for lockdowns, he said at the rate of spread happening in Colorado right now, it soon might not matter whether one happens or not.
“The virus will make it so you can’t do the things you want to do, because you’ve got too many people who are sick, and too many people who are infectious,” Kelly said.
His advice is to be smart and be patient.
“This is definitely going to be a difficult couple of months,” he said. “Even with our best efforts, there’s no doubt about it.”
And if the numbers don’t ease soon?
"If we do not do that, then in the immortal words of Samuel Jackson in Jurassic Park: hold onto your butts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride," Kelly said.
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