Varied Jeffco COVID case rates suggest disease hitting low-income areas

Edgewater, Wheat Ridge and Lakewood have highest rates

Paul Albani-Burgio
palbaniburgio@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 6/2/20

From highly populated suburbs like Lakewood and Arvada to more rural locations like Genesee and Indian Hills, COVID-19 has turned up in communities across Jefferson County. But while few corners of …

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Varied Jeffco COVID case rates suggest disease hitting low-income areas

Edgewater, Wheat Ridge and Lakewood have highest rates

Posted

From highly populated suburbs like Lakewood and Arvada to more rural locations like Genesee and Indian Hills, COVID-19 has turned up in communities across Jefferson County.

But while few corners of Jeffco have escaped the reach of the disease, it has not hit all areas equally.

New, more detailed case information data compiled by Jefferson County Public Health shows significant disparities in the rates of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in communities in Jefferson County.

According to that data, the Jeffco community with the highest rate of COVID-19 cases is Edgewater with a rate of 7.1 cases per 1,000 persons. Wheat Ridge has the second highest rate at 6.8 cases per 1,000 people while Lakewood has the third at a rate of 5.0 cases per 1,000 people.

Those rates are all significantly higher than the county average of 3.7 cases per 1,000. Other communities with an above average rate are Golden (4.2 cases per 1,000), Coal Creek (4.2 cases per 1,000) and Kittredge (4.0 cases per 1,000).

Coming in at below the county average were Arvada (3.4 cases per 1,000) and Westminster (2.8 cases per 1,000) as well as smaller communities like Evergreen (2 cases per 1,000) and Indian Hills (2.8 cases per 1,000).

Jefferson County Public Health Epidemiologist Kate Watkins said the community numbers, as well as more detailed case information that breaks down cases by census tracks, show that the county is seeing higher rates of cases in communities and neighborhoods that have higher numbers of low income and minority residents.

“Jefferson County is not any different than the rest of Colorado or the rest of the country in that we are seeing with those lower income folks that are having to continue to go out and work every day and interact with the public more, we are seeing higher rates among those populations. And that’s to be expected because they are as important as our health care workers and have as much risk.”

But while most communities seem in line with population trends, JCPH COVID-19 Incident Commander Christine Billings said she wonders if Wheat Ridge’s rate is being impacted by the presence of a drive-thru testing site at the Stride Community Health Center, as the site means Wheat Ridge residents have easier access to testing and thus might be more likely to get tested if they presented symptoms.

“I am curious about whether the increase in testing is affecting that number,” said Billings. “Which is what we want, we want to increase testing so we can do contact tracing and isolate those cases in the community.”

The county’s data also shows that of the 167 Jeffco residents who had died from COVID-19 as of May 28, 68.9% of those who died lived in skilled nursing or long-term care institutions.

Watkins said that trend is consistent with that of communities from around the nation, which have found that elder care facilities are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.

Christine Billings, JCPH’s COVID-19 Incident Commander, said Jeffco is similar to Adams County in that both counties have high numbers of elder care facilities, with Adams County having eight more.

“The rate of death is pretty similar between the two counties,” she said. “So it is it is tied definitely to the number of facilities that we have.”

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