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At the Peak Vista Community Health Center on North Academy Boulevard anyone over 12 and symptomatic can be tested. Medical Assistant Georgina Hambly tests a patient at the drive-thru on Monday, April 27, 2020. El Paso County Public Health data shows the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 since July 13 is 8% up above the state’s goal of 5%. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

El Paso County reached the deadline Monday for reducing the spread of the coronavirus or facing new limits on large gatherings in restaurants, gyms and other venues. 

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said it will be reviewing the county's data Tuesday after county officials spent two weeks working to slow the spread of the virus. 

The data the state uses to measure the spread of coronavirus and and set new limits on gatherings has not shown improvement, according to El Paso County Public Health. 


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El Paso County Public Health Director Susan Wheelan told Colorado Springs City Council Monday the city could lose state-granted variances based on the spread of the virus. But scaling back a variance is not the same as returning to a lock down, she said. 

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The county has two more weeks to slow the spread of the virus before variances could be revoked by the state. The county was granted variances that allowed the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo to reopen and churches, restaurants, gyms and other venues to operate at higher capacity than would otherwise be permitted under state health orders.

About 1,035 people in El Paso County have tested positive for the virus over the last two weeks, said Dr. Robin Johnson, County Public Health medical director. The rate of cases per 100,000 residents has also remained high as measured by state standards. As of Sunday, El Paso County had 146 new cases per 100,000 residents over two weeks, well above the threshold the state sets for allowing large gatherings of 25 new cases per 100,000 residents over two weeks. 

County data also show the number of people testing positive for the virus is 8%, up from 7% last week and well above the state's goal of a 5% positive rate. More people have been seeking testing for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, because they feel sick and at the same time more people are testing positive, Dr. Leon Kelly, El Paso County Public Health deputy medical director, said.

"That increasing percent positive is one of those warning lights," he said. "...It again and again seems to proceed larger outbreaks."

The virus is spreading more among younger residents in El Paso County who are less likely to get severely ill, Johnson said  County data show about 28% of those who tested positive in the past two weeks are in their 20s, the highest percentage of any age group. But officials are beginning to see more cases in older age groups, she said. 

Penrose-St. Francis Health Services is seeing about the same number of people as it saw when coronavirus started to spread in the city in the spring, however those patients are not staying hospitalized as long, Chief Medical Officer Bill Plauth said. 

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"Capacity has not been an issue over the last couple of weeks," he said. 

The county has two more weeks to slow the spread of the virus before variances could be revoked by the state. The county was granted variances that allowed the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo to reopen and churches, restaurants, gyms and other venues to operate at higher capacity than would otherwise be permitted under state health orders.

Contact the writer at mary.shinn@gazette.com or (719) 429-9264.

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