A fully vaccinated member of the Colorado Springs Bridge Center has tested positive for COVID-19, prompting the facility to temporarily close its doors less than three weeks after it reopened to in-person play for the first time since March 2020, when it was the epicenter for the pandemic's arrival in Colorado.
Club leaders have notified the entire membership of the positive case, also known as a “breakthrough” case because the person was fully vaccinated. “Out of an abundance of caution,” they have also temporarily closed the west-side center through Monday, said Phoebe Lostroh, a club member who was acting Tuesday as a bridge center spokeswoman. Lostroh is also a professor at Colorado College and has a Ph.D. in microbiology from Harvard University.
Lostroh declined to provide details about the member who tested positive, including age and gender, citing their desire for privacy.
The Colorado Springs Bridge Center, one of the city's largest and oldest bridge clubs, is where hundreds of residents — most of them retirees — have gathered for years to play the game. In March 2020, the novel COVID-19 virus found its first victims in Colorado there, after a weekend tournament attended by a member who unknowingly had the virus led to a superspreader event that killed six members and sickened and hospitalized dozens more.
The outbreak forced the center to shutter its doors for 481 days before it reopened in early July.
According to a statement on the center's website, the person played at the facility on North 17th Street twice last week, on the afternoons of July 19 and July 23. Lostroh estimated there were between 24 and 30 other bridge members at the center during that time each day.
Club leaders said the sickened member recently tested positive for the highly transmissible delta variant, which is driving the spread of the virus and accounts for 90% of new cases in Colorado, as The Gazette has previously reported. El Paso County Public Health could not confirm the positive case Tuesday because it hasn’t yet received that information from the state, department spokeswoman Michelle Hewitt said.
The infected person is experiencing “very mild respiratory symptoms” and is not hospitalized, Lostroh said. No other bridge members have tested positive for the virus at this time, the website states.
Since reopening July 6, bridge club members who wish to play in person at the center had to be vaccinated unless they have a medical condition that prevents it, Lostroh said. Unvaccinated members must wear masks.
Club leaders don’t anticipate enacting further safety regulations when the building reopens Monday, such as social distancing or capacity reductions, Lostroh said. In addition to vaccine requirements, club officials are also monitoring the facility’s ventilation system to make sure carbon dioxide levels — which indicate the number of people in the building at one time — remain safe.
“We’re seeing safe levels under 1,000 parts per million. In some cases, we’re seeing under 700 parts per million,” Lostroh said. “We know our ventilation system is good.”
But breakthrough cases among vaccinated individuals should be expected and could continue at the facility because the vaccines are not 100% effective against the delta variant, club leaders said in the statement.
State epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy previously said the Pfizer vaccine is about 88% effective against the delta variant, and Lostroh said last month the Moderna vaccine will likely have the same effectiveness. It’s unclear how effective the Johnson and Johnson vaccine could be.
Still, vaccines remain the most effective tool against the disease, Lostroh said Tuesday.
“Vaccination is why this person has a mild case instead of a serious case and why those who were also exposed are unlikely to be affected,” she said.
Anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or who have concerns about possible exposure can find COVID-19 testing information on the El Paso County Public Health website, elpasocountyhealth.org/covid-19-testing-information.
For information about how and where to get a vaccine, visit elpasocountyhealth.org/how-can-i-get-a-vaccine.
Gazette reporter Stephanie Earls contributed to this report.