Garfield County to roll back some COVID variance allowances in response to latest case surge |

Garfield County to roll back some COVID variance allowances in response to latest case surge

Post Independent Garfield County news graphic

Garfield County plans to voluntarily move to the state’s Safer at Home Level 2 restrictions for business activities and gatherings, given the latest spike in new coronavirus case numbers.

The county has received confirmation of 72 new cases of COVID-19 in the past week, including more than 20 new cases over the weekend, Garfield County Public Health Director Yvonne Long said in a Monday update to county commissioners.

Over the past two weeks, the county has had 137 cases, and the incidence rate has increased from less than 200 per 100,000 people at the end of last week to 228.1 per 100,000 as of Monday.

And, about 6.5% of COVID-19 tests in the county are coming back positive, up from less than 5% in recent weeks.

Those statistics mirror what is happening in many other parts of the state, Long said, including the tri-county region of Garfield, Pitkin and Eagle counties. Mesa County to the west has also reverted from the lowest-restriction Protect Our Neighbors status to Safer Level 1 due to a spike in cases there.

Though hospitalizations have been increasing in some areas of Colorado, Garfield County remains in the “comfortable” range.

“We do want to keep it at that, and not have our hospitals overrun,” Long said.

The county should make some effort to try to reverse the case trend in order to avoid the state mandating even stricter protection levels, she said.

“We are getting at the point where the state looks at us as moving from yellow (Safer Level 2/Concern) to orange (Safer Level 3/High Risk),” Long said, referring to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s color coding for its five risk levels.

Due to the state-approved variances in place for Garfield County, many of the county’s restrictions are in line with Safer Level 1 (Cautious), she said. So, there’s room for adjustment without major impacts on business and personal activities, she said.

Under the yellow Safer Level 2, the biggest changes would be:

  • Limiting gyms and fitness centers to 25% capacity, instead of 50% as currently allowed.
  • Limiting restaurants and indoor places of worship to 50% capacity with a maximum of 50-100 (depending on ability to social distance based on square foot), from the current allowance of 50% or up to 175 people.
  • Limiting private gatherings to no more than 10 people from two households, where currently up to 25 people are allowed without household restrictions.

“We don’t have a lot of those large places of gathering that can accommodate that many people anyway,” Long said of the 175-person maximum. “So, it’s a place where we could move backwards, without causing undue hardship on anybody.”

While there is some increase in community spread (unknown source of infection), many of the latest cases are related to workplace spread and spread within family units, Long said.

Ultimately, “It comes down to behavior, and what people are willing to do to get our numbers back down,” she said.

County commissioners were supportive of the voluntary rollback, and said they would oppose any efforts by state health officials to move the county to the more restrictive Level 3 (orange).

“This commissioner is not going to stand for going back to orange,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said, saying the economic impact would be too great to roll back to the higher-risk level of protections.

Jankovsky said he doesn’t see adoption of the Level 2 restrictions as being too much different than what’s in place, other than the stricter limits on personal gatherings.

“I don’t want to go to orange. That’s hurting our economy, andhurting our businesses,” he said.

Commissioner Mike Samson emphasized the importance of remaining vigilant and recognizing that disease spread is a concern, and can have consequences.

“It’s about personal responsibility,” Samson said. “Don’t do foolish things, use common sense, don’t be crowded in a small room with people … just using common sense and common respect for one another goes a long ways.”

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