State steps in to move Garfield County to ’high risk’ orange level on Covid dial
Tighter restrictions on business activity and public and private gatherings are now in effect in Garfield County, after the state acted Thursday to move the county to the “high risk” category on the Covid-19 dial.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) formally moved Garfield County into the orange, or “high-risk” category, based on the state’s metrics tool to determine pandemic restrictions.
County commissioners, in a special meeting with CDPHE Chief of Staff Mara Brosy-Wiwchar on Tuesday, made an appeal to remain in the yellow, or “concerned” category, saying it more accurately reflects the situation in Garfield County.
Not all of the restrictions that would normally come with the state’s orange level will be in effect for Garfield County, though, according to a news release from the county announcing the new limits.
Current variances will remain in place, including those for the Glenwood Hot Springs Resort and Iron Mountain Hot Springs, as well as the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.
Restaurants and retail shops are still allowed to operate at 50% capacity, though outdoor seating for restaurants is limited to 10 people, 6 feet apart. Places of worship may also continue to operate at the yellow level of 50% capacity, or up to 175 people, depending on building space.
However, restaurant liquor sales must end at 10 p.m. under the new restrictions.
The orange-level restrictions also limit public and private gatherings to no more than 10 people from no more than two households; in-person office occupancy of no more than 25%, with remote work encouraged; indoor and outdoor events are limited to 25% of posted occupancy, or 50 and 75 people, respectively, whichever is less.
Personal services are also limited to 25% occupancy, or 25 people, whichever is less.
And, organized recreational youth or adult indoor sports are not allowed. However, outdoor events may proceed with groups of 10 or less, as long as participants are practicing safe social distancing.
New variance requests are also prohibited until the county is back at the yellow level, according to the release.
Municipalities may also implement more stringent measures, but none less strict than those at the orange level.
County commissioners had argued that Garfield County has worked with the public and with businesses to promote the practices of mask-wearing, maintaining a safe distance from other people, hand-washing and using good hygiene.
Commissioner Tom Jankovsky warned that further limiting economic activity would be both financially damaging and unduly punitive.
“It is not right to put this on small businesses” he said. “Our public health department has done a good job of mitigation.”
Further, Jankovsky said there’s a psychological impact from being asked to roll back to tighter restrictions.
“We are having a mental health crisis,” he said.
Garfield County, with a population of roughly 58,000 people, on Thursday reported 395 new positive cases (equates to 659 per 100,000 people) from Nov. 5 to Nov. 18, and a test positivity rate of 12.4%. Orange status is in effect if a county experiences more than 175 to 350 cases per 100,000 people over a 14-day period. or a test positivity rate of no more than 15%.
Hospital capacity also remains at a comfortable level in the county, though hospital officials warn that can change quickly.
“Limiting the disease’s spread is encouraged by having residents practice safety guidelines of wearing masks, washing their hands often, limiting travel as much as possible, and above all, staying home when ill,” the release states.
The full list of restrictions and variances under level orange as it will be applied in Garfield County can be found on the county’s public health orders webpage, at http://www.garfield-county.com/public-health/executive-orders.
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Garfield County COVID-19 cases nearly doubled in early September with the anticipated start-of-school spike, according to local health officials.