State returns Garfield County to level yellow based on recent jump in COVID-19 cases
5-Star variance program not activated locally
Garfield County has gone back to level yellow on the state’s COVID-19 dial, per state health officials based on case trends in recent weeks.
However, the county continues to operate at level blue as far as business restrictions go, since it appears the current dial will be obsolete in two weeks per the latest indications from the Governor’s Office.
“The Governor’s Office has stated that they will be relaxing the COVID-19 restrictions managed through the state’s dial and turn over control of most public health orders to local governments in mid-April,” Carrie Godes, Garfield County Public Health specialist, said Tuesday afternoon.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment moved Garfield County to level yellow on Sunday.
Because Garfield County policy is set by the Board of County Commissioners, and the commissioners aren’t scheduled to meet again until April 5, no response to the state’s dial move will be made until then, she said.
“The board will be reviewing the state’s position that Garfield County has been moved to level yellow and determine the response back to the state and the community in light of the fact that the dial system will become obsolete in the next two weeks,” Godes said.
“Until then, Garfield County’s focus is to emphasize 6-foot social distancing rules, face coverings in public, hand washing, staying home when sick, and getting tested if symptoms develop for people in all organizations,” she said.
Two of the three primary indicators used by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to determine a county’s level of risk for disease spread are now at level yellow in Garfield County:
The one-week COVID-19 incidence rate, as of Tuesday, was 146.3 cases per 100,000 people, with the latest actual one-week tally of 82 cases. The blue/yellow level threshold is 100 cases per 100,000. Garfield County has not been below that rate since the second week of March.
Garfield County’s hospitalization rate has also been stable or declining for only 11 of the last 14 days, which also puts the county just one day into the yellow zone.
Remaining at the lower-risk level blue, however, is the county’s test positivity rate. As of Tuesday, it was 4.6% (still below the 5% threshold for level blue).
Garfield County last week announced new state dial changes that allowed restaurants in level-blue counties to operate at 100% capacity, but with six-foot distancing between dinner parties and a mask requirement when not sitting.
Level yellow technically means restaurants must return to 50% capacity, with last call for alcohol sales at 1 a.m., instead of 2 a.m.
Bars that don’t serve food also are to be closed altogether under level yellow, and offices, gyms and other businesses are to operate at reduced capacity.
Garfield County does have state approval for businesses to qualify for the 5-Star State Certification Program, which allows approved businesses to operate a level up from where the county sits on the state dial.
However, the county never activated the program since the county’s move to level blue in February meant it wouldn’t offer any additional benefits, Godes explained.
Garfield County is still listed as state-approved for the 5-Star program, but it remains dormant, she said, adding the administrative committee that oversees the program plans to meet following the county commissioners meeting next week.
“At that time, they will determine the next steps forward for the program,” she said.
Meanwhile, Garfield County Public Health is still focusing efforts on contact tracing as COVID-19 cases and outbreaks are still occurring, Godes said.
“In addition, the department is working to increase allocations of vaccine to the county and ensure that those vaccines are distributed as quickly as possible,” she said.
Public Health continues to focus its vaccination efforts on the current phase 1.B.4 populations, which includes homebound individuals, frontline essential workers in the restaurant and hospitality industries, construction workers, and anyone over age 50.
The county also wants to make sure the most vulnerable in the community and those at the greatest risk for hospitalization are given priority for vaccines, Godes said.
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