Teller County Public Health has attributed a sharp increase of COVID-19 positive cases in the county to visitors to Charis Bible College in Woodland Park.
New cases of COVID-19 in Teller County more than doubled since the beginning of July, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment.
As of July 24, Teller County has recorded a total of 89 cases of COVID-19 and 2 deaths, per CDHPE data. That includes 48 new cases since July 3.
“Three people were hospitalized; the hospital, Pikes Peak Regional, is running at near capacity,” said Teller County Commissioner Marc Dettenrieder, speaking at the commissioners’ meeting July 23. “They have two beds open and are close to being maxed out.”
In an updated report from Teller County Public Health, as of July 20, Andrew Wommack Ministries/Charis Bible College had seven staff members test positive, with eight additional employees presumed positive (those who came in close contact with the infected). In addition, there were 15 attendees of the June 29-July 3 Summer Family Bible Conference at Charis' Woodland Park campus who tested positive, with another four attendees presumed positive.
“The majority of the recent cases have a connection to Andrew Wommack Ministries/Charis Bible College,” said Dettenrieder, speaking the day after the commissioners’ meeting. “But the numbers we have today could change tomorrow.”
Andrew Wommack Ministries received a cease-and-desist letter from Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser on July 2 while the Summer Family Bible Conference was in session.
Earlier this month, the ministry retained Liberty Counsel, a national nonprofit litigation, education, and public policy organization with an emphasis on First Amendment and other Constitutional rights. In a letter to the state Attorney General, the Counsel argued that Gov. Jared Polis has permitted thousands of people to gather in mass protests to exercise their First Amendment rights.
Ministry founder Andrew Wommack posted on his Facebook page: "Liberty Counsel has agreed to represent us and we are fighting back. I believe it is not only our constitutional right but our duty to stop this extreme overreach of government that allows people to riot and pillage but not assemble to worship the Lord.”
As of July 24, Teller County had three outbreaks of COVID-19. The State of Colorado defines an outbreak as "two or more cases from and event, facility, location or organization."
“An outbreak is two or more in a facility; that number is ridiculously low,” Dettenrieder said.
Two of the new COVID-19 cases were reported at a daycare facility in Woodland Park and two at Woodland Park City Hall.
According to Karen Muntzert, spokesperson for public health, the department is still investigating the cases at the daycare facility.
“Our contact tracing has increased here across the county,” Dettenrieder said. “We are in the process of training volunteers and will actually be bringing on temporary employees to help. We have received 400 (COVID-19) test kits.”
The uptick in case numbers puts the county’s state-approved variances at risk, Dettenrieder said. State approval allowed businesses to open sooner than others in the state, but with recommended health guidelines still in place, including the wearing of masks, social distancing and a limited number of people indoors.
The state granted the county a second variance that allowed the casinos in Cripple Creek to open June 15. “No cases of COVID have been linked to casinos,” Dettenrieder said. “We send our appreciation to casino operators; they are doing a good job up to this point.”
To see the latest information about cases around the state, visit covid19.colorado.gov.