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Colorado Places Where COVID-19 May Not Go Away

A scene from Main Street in Grand Junction, the largest community in Mesa County, which is at Level Red on Colorado's COVID-19 dial dashboard.
A scene from Main Street in Grand Junction, the largest community in Mesa County, which is at Level Red on Colorado's COVID-19 dial dashboard.
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President Joe Biden recently set a national goal of having 70 percent of the U.S. adult population immunized against COVID-19 by July 4. But it's looking unlikely that the country will reach Biden's benchmark by that date — and while Colorado has at least an outside chance of doing so as a state, the current vaccination rates in 27 counties may not hit the 70 percent threshold for a year or more, if ever.

An increasing number of experts believe America won't reach herd immunity against the novel coronavirus. Yet some states are having more success in this quest than others. Last week, the New York Times counted thirty states in danger of missing Biden's 70 percent target, many of them in the Deep South and the Mountain West. Colorado was an exception in that region, having already vaccinated 66 percent of adult residents; the Times theorized that Colorado could hit 72 percent by the Fourth of July holiday if inoculations don't flag — which they've started doing.

The no-hope states were led by Alabama and Mississippi, which have vaccinated 46 percent and 44 percent of adult residents, respectively. At their present pace, the two states would take more than a year to hit 70 percent, the Times estimated — and that's not counting their under-eighteen populations. Next came Wyoming, at 47 percent, which would probably take at least ten months to reach 70 percent.

According to the vaccine data dashboard maintained by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, several Colorado counties have already immunized well over 70 percent of their eligible residents with at least one dose, led by San Juan County, at 88.4 percent. Denver is on the cusp of reaching the 70 percent goal, at 69.6 percent. But 27 counties are at or below — often well below — Alabama's 46 percent level. Because Colorado's data includes children over age twelve, these counties are doing a bit better than the states at the bottom of the Times's barrel. But 70 percent is still a very long way off.

In addition to looking at the vaccination percentages in these 27 Colorado counties, we also checked their two-week cumulative incidence rate on the state's COVID-19 dial dashboard, which is still being updated even though officials are no longer using it to dictate safety protocols.

Thirteen counties are at Level Green, the lowest level on the dashboard, with fewer than eight new cases of COVID-19 over the previous two weeks — a benefit, undoubtedly, of their modest populations and lack of dense urban communities. But should COVID-19 start to spread in such spots, the virus will find plenty of unvaccinated people to infect. That's especially true of Bent and Crowley counties, where fewer than 20 percent of eligible residents have been immunized.

The remaining fourteen counties are at higher levels on the dial, with three at Level Orange, including Elbert County, which is part of the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood statistical area, and four at Level Red, including Mesa County, anchored by the burgeoning city of Grand Junction. These scenarios would have resulted in significant restrictions for businesses and workplaces just a few short months ago, and they bode ill for their ability to vanquish COVID-19 in 2021.

Here are the 27 Colorado counties with vaccination rates at or below 46 percent as of yesterday, June 7. The ones at Level Orange on the COVID-19 dial have been italicized; Level Red counties appear in bold.

Sedgwick — 46.4 percent
Level Green: Fewer than eight cases in the past two weeks

Conejos — 44.7 percent
Level Red: 441.1 cumulative incidence rate per 100,000

Otero — 43.8 percent
Level Yellow: 125.8 cumulative incidence rate per 100,000

Morgan — 43.6 percent
Level Blue: 51.8 cumulative incidence rate per 100,000

Montrose — 43.3 percent
Level Orange: 184.7  cumulative incidence rate per 100,000

Mesa — 43.1 percent
Level Red: 498.9 cumulative incidence rate per 100,000

Park — 42.9 percent
Level Yellow: 169.8 cumulative incidence rate per 100,000

Custer — 42.9 percent
Level Orange: 197.7 cumulative incidence rate per 100,000

Delta — 42.3 percent
Level Yellow: 131.5 cumulative incidence rate per 100,000

Yuma — 40.8 percent
Level Yellow: 119.2 cumulative incidence rate per 100,000

Jackson — 40.3 percent
Level Green: Fewer than eight cases in the past two weeks

Baca — 38.2 percent
Level Green: Fewer than eight cases in the past two weeks

Dolores — 38 percent
Level Green: Fewer than eight cases in the past two weeks

Prowers — 37.5 percent
Level Blue: 66 cumulative incidence rate per 100,000

Kiowa — 36.1 percent
Level Green: Fewer than eight cases in the past two weeks

Moffat — 36.1 percent
Level Red: 566 cumulative incidence rate per 100,000

Fremont — 35.9 percent
Level Orange: 220.4 cumulative incidence rate per 100,000

Kit Carson — 35 percent
Level Green: Fewer than eight cases in the past two weeks

Rio Blanco — 34.7 percent
Level Green: Fewer than eight cases in the past two weeks

Saguache — 34.4 percent
Level Yellow: 161.2 cumulative incidence rate per 100,000

Lincoln — 32.8 percent
Level Green: Fewer than eight cases in the past two weeks

Logan — 32.3 percent
Level Yellow: 77.6 cumulative incidence rate per 100,000

Elbert — 32.1 percent
Level Yellow: 119.9 cumulative incidence rate per 100,000

Washington — 28.9 percent
Level Green: Fewer than eight cases in the past two weeks

Cheyenne — 28.6 percent
Level Green: Fewer than eight cases in the past two weeks

Bent — 19.9 percent
Level Green: Fewer than eight cases in the past two weeks

Crowley — 18.3 percent
Level Green: Fewer than eight cases in the past two weeks

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