Summit County to move to level orange Monday |

Summit County to move to level orange Monday

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include additional information about what the move to level orange means for Summit County businesses.

DENVER — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announced late Wednesday, Dec. 30, that he will loosen coronavirus restrictions in areas across the state that had been forced to ban personal gatherings and shut down indoor dining in recent weeks.

Polis said he is asking the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to move counties that had been under level red restrictions to level orange restrictions starting Monday, Jan. 4.

At a Board of Health meeting Thursday, Dec. 31, Public Health Director Amy Wineland said Summit County will be moving into the new level at 12:01 a.m. Monday. The county will release an amended public health order to reflect the change to level orange Thursday evening.

“(It’s) really great news,” Wineland said. “It’s a step in the right direction for our community and businesses.”

Under level orange restrictions, counties will be able to allow personal gatherings of up to 10 people from two different households and restaurants can offer indoor dining at up to 25% of their capacity or 50 people.

“In reviewing the data, Colorado has been in a sustained declined for 13 days, and only 73% of (intensive care unit) beds statewide are in use,” Polis posted on Twitter on Wednesday.

Over the past two weeks, Summit County’s incidence rate has been reduced to 723 new cases per 100,000 residents, a near 50% decline from a peak of 1,352 per 100,000 at the end of November. The positivity rate, which reflects the number of tests that return positive, also has declined substantially to 5.8% from a peak of more than 15% at the beginning of December.

The change in restrictions will come even though Summit County’s incidence rate falls well within level red. Level orange requires fewer than 350 new cases per 100,000 people in a two week period, which is less than half of Summit’s current rate.

Summit’s positivity rates falls in level yellow at between 5% and 10%, and the county’s stable or decreasing hospitalizations remain in level green on the state’s dial.

The move will allow all restaurants to operate at 25% capacity. However, five-star certified businesses won’t be able to operate under level yellow restrictions until the county reflects two weeks of case numbers within the level orange threshold.

“We (will) continue to move forward with our five-star program, allowing businesses to get certified in anticipation of our ability to ultimately have moved to level yellow again,” County Manager Scott Vargo said at the meeting.

The anticipated move comes even as Colorado this week detected a case of a coronavirus variant that is thought to be as much as 70% more transmissible.

Summit health officials addressed the variant Wednesday, saying existing public health measures will be effective in combating the more contagious strain.

“It’s not unusual to see this happen,” Wineland said Wednesday about the virus mutation. “It happened with the Spanish flu, where over time it became more contagious and less deadly. The scientists are really confident the vaccine does cover, and will still be effective against, this new strain. But what’s really important for people to understand first and foremost is we know how to protect ourselves. We need to make sure we continue following those six commitments and make sure we continue to protect our community at the same time as we continue to get these vaccines off of shelves and into arms as quickly as possible, so we can get out of this hole we’ve been in for so long.”

This story is from Libby Stanford contributed to this report.

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