Rae Ellen Bichell

A vaccine against the virus behind COVID-19 offers the only certain return to normalcy. Even so, misinformation and conspiracy theories abound – and a vaccine hasn’t even been developed yet. It’s an issue people have been trying to combat for other vaccines that do exist. Colorado researchers are taking an interesting approach to bridge the gap.

A Utah-based company called Domo is showing public health agencies in the Mountain West where their COVID-19 transmission risk is coming from. Among other things, the service uses cell phone location data to identify which counties and states visitors are coming from, and pairs it with data about how bad the local COVID-19 outbreak is there. Public health officials in Southwest Colorado say the tool has shown that at the moment, the most active people in the area are people normally based in Texas, followed by people usually based in Arizona. 

There’s a high demand for contact tracers across the nation. One university in the Mountain West is in the process of training 85 college students to help fill the gap once classes resume in the fall. 

A large group of outbreak specialists say there’s been a problematic silencing of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during this pandemic. 

Colorado is the latest state in the Mountain West to issue a mask requirement, joining Nevada and New Mexico. 

Researchers have released a new guide for parents about how to keep their kids from being recruited by extremists online.

Protests are unfolding across the country over the death of Elijah McClain at the hands of police in Aurora, Colo. Now, frustration is also building over local law enforcement’s use of force this past weekend at a vigil in Aurora honoring him — frustration that was visible at a city council meeting Tuesday night dedicated to the response. 

Dearfield, Colorado, is one of the last standing towns started by Black homesteaders in the Great Plains. Now, property in the ghost town has changed hands, ensuring that key sites will be protected.

This post was updated June 29, 2020 to include comments from Alexis Kalergis. 

A Colorado team says their work on a COVID-19 vaccine is progressing. Other vaccines are much further down the testing pipeline, but none have crossed the finish line yet. 

Protests against racism and police brutality continue in Colorado, but there are many faces and voices that are missing. Here, four Colorado women who are Black activists and scholars share their thoughts on what this moment means to them. They’ve opted out of protests, due to health complications or because they’re participating in other ways. Scroll down for their full bios. 

According to Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the nation has yet to exit the first wave of this pandemic. Cases in the Northeast and Midwest are, in general, trending downward, but the Mountain West continues to experience local surges in COVID-19.

After a failed attempt last year, Colorado lawmakers have passed a bill that would make it harder to get a vaccine exemption for school children. 

Cities and counties across the country are declaring that racism is a public health crisis, including at least one city in the Mountain West.

At a hearing last weekend about a Colorado bill on vaccination, Dr. Reginald Washington had originally planned to make several urgent points in support of the bill. 

First, that diseases like measles are resurging, and they’re serious. (He’d know. He’s treated patients with complications from measles and pertussis.) Second, due to COVID-19, children are missing well-child visits and skipping vaccinations, putting them at risk of outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. 

Weekend protests drew crowds across the country including in the Mountain West, from hundreds in Boise and Reno to thousands in Denver. Some city leaders now worry such gatherings could lead to new outbreaks of COVID-19.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced Sunday that the city will be offering free tests to demonstrators. 

Researchers in Utah are in the process of testing about 10,000 people for COVID-19 and antibodies against the virus that causes it.

“People have talked about how we see the tip of the iceberg with the formalized testing that we have,” said Dr. Stephen Alder, a professor of family and preventive medicine at the University of Utah and one of the project’s leaders. “We're trying to look at, ‘All right, how much of the iceberg is underwater?’ This is a good way to do that.”

Nursing home residents and workers account for about one-third of all coronavirus deaths in the U.S., as The New York Times reported last week. Testing every resident and worker could help slow the spread in nursing homes – but it's expensive.

Everyone knows that living in the Rockies can get expensive. Headwaters Economics wanted to know why. The non-profit published new research this week that examines what causes housing to become so expensive in places where outdoor recreation is a main economic driver.

Depending on the estimate, the U.S. needs between 100,000 and 300,000 contact tracers to help fight COVID-19. Some say these new jobs could be an opportunity for some of the millions of Americans who've been laid off or furloughed.

Communities across the globe are trying to understand what percent of their population has been exposed to COVID-19 by searching random samples of residents for antibodies against the virus. 

This week the governors of Colorado and Nevada joined West Coast states in something called the Western States Pact. Its stated aim is to bring together states with a “shared vision for modifying stay at home orders and fighting COVID-19.” 

The U.S. now has at least three such regional collaborations. 

This post was updated May 1 with additional information

It's World Immunization Week, but there's evidence that vaccinations are down as checkups get postponed or skipped due to worries about getting exposed to the new coronavirus.

Testing is considered a major requirement on the path back to normal, and as the president has made clear, it's largely up to the states to find the way. Are states in the Mountain West up to the task? By multiple measures, Utah and New Mexico are leading the way, while other states are still lagging behind. 

There was the hiker who broke his leg, then refused to put on a mask before the alpine rescue team helped him down the mountain. There were the snowboarders and skiers packing together into cars to drive up to a closed ski area. Or the people howling at the full moon, over open flames.

Bruce Snelling, undersheriff with Clear Creek County in Colorado, said all of these incidents have happened in recent weeks. And until Saturday, there wasn’t too much he could do about it. But now, the county’s public health order lays out some harsh penalties for non-residents using county roads to get to the backcountry: a fine of up to $5,000 or up to 18 months in the county jail.  

As the nation continues to lag behind on testing for the new coronavirus, Utah and New Mexico rank among the states that have administered the most tests per capita. 

San Miguel County, Colorado, is one of few places in the world where testing has been offered to an entire community. As the Mountain West News Bureau has reported, a biomedical company is offering blood tests for free to all residents there over 8 years old. 

State officials from around the country, including four in the Mountain West, have signed a letter to the Food and Drug Administration asking the agency to make it easier for more people to donate blood.

Some potential donors have to practice months of abstinence before they can give blood. The rule only applies to certain people — namely, men who have sex with men. It also applies to women who’ve had sex with men who have, in turn, had sex with other men.

Amid nationwide testing shortages and backlogs, one county in our region is offering COVID-19 tests to everyone. A local couple is bankrolling the effort. And it’s not the usual nostril swab. It’s a blood test. 

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