Garfield County’s ability to remain open under ‘Yellow’ level restrictions hinges on hospitalizations
Garfield County has technically moved to the “High Risk,” or Orange level on the state’s Covid-19 dial, but the key to keeping businesses open at the county commissioners’ requested lower-level Yellow restrictions is hospitalizations.
The hospitalization rate is the one metric on the color-coded state dial that is either “Green” or “Red” — the latter constituting a tipping point for hospitals in terms of capacity to admit the most seriously ill coronavirus patients.
Other measures on the revised dial run the gamut from the most-comfortable Green to Blue (Cautious), Yellow (Concern), Orange (High Risk), Red (Severe Risk) and, as of Tuesday, the newly added Purple (Extreme Risk)
Garfield County remains in the Green as far as hospitalizations go. Just Wednesday, though, the county fell from having seen 10 days over the past two weeks with “stable or declining hospitalizations” through Tuesday, to nine days as of the 14-day period ending Wednesday.
If that number drops to seven or below, the county’s hospitalization capacity moves to the red category, explained Mason Hohstadt, data specialist for the Garfield County Public Health Department.
If the county can stay in the eight to 14 range, it’s in the Green.
“What the nine days signifies is that of the last 14 days we have seen nine days of stable or declining hospitalizations,” Hohstadt said.
Dr. David Brooks, chief medical officer at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs, on Monday advised county commissioners that, so far, the hospital is keeping up. Most patients locally who are being admitted for Covid-19 are going into acute care, rather than intensive care, he said.
In general, Valley View is still able to treat other non-Covid patients, and is able to perform elective procedures, Brooks said.
With the latest surge in coronavirus spread in the local community, though, that can change fast, he warned.
Several other measures on both the state dial and in the county’s localized metrics tracking — including the incidence rate, test positivity rate and ability to investigate the growing number of new cases, are solidly in the Orange and Red range.
That prompted Colorado Department of Public Health (CDPHE) officials this week to request the county adopt the Orange level of restrictions on business activity and public gatherings. In essence, that would mean restaurants, retail shops, gyms and churches would have to roll back to operating at 25% capacity, instead of the current 50% under Level Yellow.
Orange status takes effect if a county experiences between 175 and 350 cases over a 14-day period (Garfield County had 395 from Nov. 5-18), or a test positivity rate of no more than 15 percent (Garfield’s is now 12.4%).
Moving to Orange would not jeopardize any of the site-specific variances already in place, including the Glenwood Hot Springs and Iron Mountain Hot Springs resorts, explained Mara Brosy-Wiwchar, chief of staff for CDPHE.
County commissioners have also requested that restaurants and places of worship remain open at 50% capacity under the existing variances.
Brosy-Wiwchar told the board that the state would consider the request to remain at Yellow as far as restrictions. The state’s Covid-19 dial map on Wednesday did put Garfield County in the Orange, but under mitigation watch.
“I appreciate the care and consideration you’ve given to public health and the pandemic,” she said during a special Tuesday meeting with the commissioners. “Public Health Director Yvonne Long and the Garfield County Public Health Department are really remarkable in their leadership and I really appreciate the efforts they’re taking to keep your constituents safe.
“… That being said, your community spread has changed drastically from what it was in the summer to what it is currently.”
Commissioner Tom Jankovsky noted that any rollbacks in business restrictions at this point would do more harm from a mental health standpoint than good on the Covid front.
“Psychologically, this impacts the entire community,” Jankovsky said. “We are having a mental health crisis,” he said, noting that the area mental health services agency, Mind Springs Health, reported an average of 314 patient sessions per month in the third quarter at the Glenwood Springs office.
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