Data shows COVID-19 is impacting Southern Colorado counties differently

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (KRDO) — Data collected by 13 Investigations shows that there are mysteries in how COVID-19 is spreading in certain communities in Southern Colorado.

Just over 15% of El Paso County’s more than 730,000 residents are infected with COVID-19. Meanwhile, health data shows that a significantly higher proportion of the population in Lincoln County — about 24% of the county’s 5,675 residents — has been infected with the virus during the pandemic.

13 Investigations spoke with Glen Mays, professor of health policy at the Colorado School of Public Health about factors in the gap.

“Rural communities have reached lower overall vaccination levels, putting a greater proportion of the population at risk,” Mays said.

Health officials say this could be the reason for more community dispersion 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.

The same cannot be said for Kiowa County, however. Data analyzed by 13 Investigations It turns out that just over 5% of the nearly 1,500 residents are infected with the coronavirus, but Kiowa County has a vaccination rate of less than 4 in 10 residents.

“Those are some puzzling patterns, and there’s clearly a lot of uncertainty about what might explain those wide differences in community transmission,” Mays said.

Experts say rural communities typically have less access to major health centers and public health departments, which could impact how COVID-19 affects an area. Health officials also note that the rural population tends to age.

“Rural communities are more likely to have underlying health conditions, diabetes, heart disease, abscesses and lung disease that can make it really difficult to fight infection,” Mays said.

How and why COVID-19 affects different parts of Southern Colorado is still being studied, but health officials continue to tout the vaccine as the best form of protection.

“Even though we’ve been dealing with this pandemic for two years, there’s still a lot we don’t know and we’re still learning day by day,” Mays said.

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