By Tori Mason

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – More than 169 million Americans have received the COVID-19 vaccine. Despite high vaccination numbers, Colorado is one of 30 states reporting an increase in COVID-19 cases this week.

(credit: CBS)

Coloradans were elated when the Department of Public Health and Environment unveiled a new COVID dial Wednesday, lowering restrictions. It was the same day COVID cases in Jefferson County nearly sent them back, from Level Blue to Level Yellow.

In a Facebook post Thursday, Jeffco County Commissioner Lesley Dahlkemper warned residents how soon their dial position could change.

“We have a tight timeframe to lower our numbers. Otherwise, we move back into yellow on the state’s COVID dial. Jeffco, we’ve been here before and we turned the numbers around with success. We can do it again with your help!” Dahlkemper wrote.

Dr. Dawn Comstock, Executive Director of Jeffco Public Health, says more than a third of eligible Jeffco residents have gotten at least one shot.

“It was incredibly disappointing to see other counties celebrate their successes in efforts to control this virus, and Jefferson County was on the wrong path. We had exceeded our buffer zone for the first time,” said Comstock.

(credit: State of Colorado March 23, 2021)

When a county goes above the buffer zone, Comstock says the state sets a five-day clock before a county is moved to the next level on the dial. Jefferson County learned Friday that COVID cases were back under the buffer zone.

“This is a good example of just how tenuous any county status in any level of the dialer can be,” said Comstock.

Jefferson County has the highest percent positivity rate among its zero to 18 age group. Comstock says that high positivity rate for children is concerning, especially because Jeff CO schools offered 100% in-person options for students after spring break.

Trials are being conducted, but there’s still no vaccine approved for children. Even though most kids have mild or no symptoms, they can still spread the virus.

Despite high vaccination numbers, health experts expected cases to go up.

“It’s spring break and vacation time. People are traveling. We also suspect that there are variants,” said Dr. Richard Zane, Chief Innovation Officer UCHealth.

Zane says the vaccines protect against variants. While there may be different degrees of efficacy around symptomatic disease, Zane says the COVID vaccine is effective against variants. It helps to prevent hospitalization and death, but we need to give the shot time to work.

(credit: CBS)

“It really is two weeks after that second dose. That’s when the full efficacy of the vaccine hits you,” says Zane.

Both Zane and Comstock say now is not the time to relax best health practices. There’s light at the end of the tunnel, and Jefferson County’s brief regression on the dial shows how quickly that light can go away.

“Do it for the grandparents in our community who still have not been able to meet their newborn grandchildren. Do it for the loved ones who have continued to wait to celebrate their big wedding day, or the businesses that are just trying to survive. What we’re asking is for every single resident of Jefferson County to find their ‘why.’ Why it’s important to them. Use that to continue the efforts to prevent the spread of this virus,” said Comstock.

Tori Mason