The latest numbers locally for COVID-19 infections are rising so dramatically that Harvard-educated microbiologist Phoebe Lostroh advises in her latest report, "Everyone in Colorado Springs should be wearing masks when we are indoors with people who are not in our immediate household."
Relying on El Paso County Public Health's dashboard, she issued a report on Oct. 10 showing 11 percent positivity rate, which is trending upward, "indicating that there are many undetected cases in Colorado Springs."
She also notes the death toll in the county surpassed 1,000 people recently.
While new hospitalizations and hospital census show a slow increase or flat signal, the census of hospitalized COVID-19 patients is "dangerously high," she says.
She estimates 54 percent of the El Paso County population is fully vaccinated, based on local numbers and a federal estimate to approximate the number of local people in the armed forces.
"Because of the already elevated number of cases, the changing of the seasons to being colder outside and less humid, and the rising and very high percent testing positivity, I predict that the incidence will be even higher next week," she says.
"It's going to be an interesting COVID-19 week, and that's probably not good," she adds in an email.
Several local school districts have implemented mask mandates for students and staff, triggering protests among some parents. There is no mask mandate locally for the population, though some offices and businesses require masks to enter.
The Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC has not responded to an email regarding the rising incidence of the deadly virus. Nor did El Paso County respond so far. We'll update if we hear from either of those agencies.
The highly transmissible delta variant has taken over in Colorado, Lostroh says.
Asked to react to the report, Mayor John Suthers didn't mince words.
"The data nationally and locally could not be more clear. People who are unvaccinated account for the vast majority of serious illness from COVID-19 and that is causing unnecessary strain on our hospital system," Suthers said in a statement. "If we want to continue our economic recovery, return to the quality of life we all value, and keep our health care system available for emergencies like heart attacks and car accidents, we need more people to do their part and get vaccinated. This is not a political issue, it is not an emotional issue, it is a medical issue, and people need to follow the recommendations of the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment] and El Paso County Public Health.”
Michelle Beyrle, public information officer for El Paso County Public Health, agreed that vaccination is the leading prevention strategy in reducing severe illness from COVID, including hospitalization and death.
"Public Health continues to recommend the use of layered prevention measures, including vaccinations, wearing a mask in public indoor settings (regardless of vaccination status), staying home when sick, practicing social distancing, and washing hands frequently," she says in an email.
Public Health has expanded mobile outreach on vaccines and is trying to make it as easy as possible to get one.
"As we head into the winter months and in anticipation of an early respiratory season, Public Health urges residents to get vaccinated for COVID-19 if they haven't done so already, and to get a flu shot as well," she says.
Read Lostroh's report here: