New Summit County dial comes into focus with state guidelines set to expire Friday
The county will only move forward on the proposed new dial unless hospital capacity is threatened
Summit County is expected to move into level yellow restrictions later this week when the state dial expires and control returns to local governments. County officials are planning a dial system very similar to the state’s but with metrics that are easier to achieve.
On Thursday, April 15, the Board of Health will vote on the new local health order and decide whether the plan will be implemented the same day the state dial expires Friday, April 16, or the following day.
At a Board of Health meeting Tuesday, April 13, Summit County Director of Public Health Amy Wineland walked the Summit Board of County Commissioners through a few changes to the plan that was first presented last week, including revised metrics for some color levels and new vaccination targets, among other things.
Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said she hoped business owners and community members would take the time to look at the revised proposal, which should be available on the county’s website by the end of the day Wednesday, and provide insight to the commissioners prior to the board meeting Thursday.
The ultimate goal of the plan is to reach 100 or fewer new cases per 100,000 residents or get 70% of the county’s population vaccinated by May 27. When either of those goals are reached, Summit County would move to level green, when the vast majority of restrictions would be removed.
As of Tuesday, 35.8% of the county’s population was fully vaccinated and the incidence rate was 274.3 new cases per 100,000 residents.
One major benefit of the county’s proposed dial system is that Summit could only move forward on the dial — to less restrictive levels — unless hospital capacity is threatened. The county would not move to a more restrictive level due to increasing incidence or positivity rates, which is how the state’s current dial works.
In order to move to a less restrictive level, metrics must meet or exceed the less restrictive dial color for seven consecutive days, per the proposal. To move to level blue, for example, the county would have to have 250 or fewer new cases per 100,000 residents or 60% of the population vaccinated.
“In addition to this being a one-way street, I’m sort of thinking about it as a one-way ticket, and the fastest way to our destination is for folks to get vaccinated,” Summit County Commissioner Tamara Pogue said.
In the draft plan, some restrictions would be removed while others would remain the same. The plan would eliminate the two-household gathering rule. It would no longer require businesses like lodging properties and restaurants to collect contact tracing information. It would keep the 6-foot physical distancing rule for customers dining indoors at restaurants but reduce it to 3 feet for patio seating. The mask order would remain for indoor public spaces, including public transportation, and in outdoor public spaces when within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes.
“For the folks that want us to reopen as fast as humanly possible, which I certainly do, the best ways they can help is to get themselves vaccinated, to get their employees vaccinated, and to encourage their peer groups to get vaccinated because, ultimately, the sooner we get to 70% the sooner we will be in that level green metric,” Pogue said.
As the county continues to work on the new local public health order, Lawrence noted that residents will likely see differing metrics and restrictions in other counties across the state.
“You’re going to see in the news a lot in the next couple of days about what other counties are doing,” she said. “Let’s remember that 60% of the population of the state of Colorado lives in the Front Range metro area. They have a whole different set of metrics and rules and regulations that they are going to be using.”
Lawrence pointed to Boulder County’s level blue metrics, which are not to exceed 300 new cases per 100,000 residents. Under Summit County’s proposal, the same incidence rate would fall under level yellow. Lawrence also noted that some other counties, including Boulder, have a “level clear” that Summit County does not have in its proposed plan.
“There’s not a right or wrong way, but this is what’s going to happen when the state is turning over more local control,” Lawrence said. “You’re going to see each county develop their own set of regulations and how they do this, and so let’s please be fair in comparisons when we’re looking and understand that a level blue in Summit might not be a level blue somewhere else.”
Level green: Incidence rate of zero to 100 new cases per 100,00 residents or 70% of population vaccinated
Level blue: Incidence rate of 101 to 250 new cases per 100,00 residents or 60% of population vaccinated
Level yellow: Incidence rate of 251 to 500 new cases per 100,00 residents or 50% of population vaccinated
Level orange: Incidence rate of more than 500 new cases per 100,00 residents or 40% of population vaccinated
Level red: Hospital reaches 80% of surge capacity, or regional or state hospital systems reach 85% of surge capacity
Level purple: Statewide hospital capacity is threatened and approaching the need for medical crisis standards of care, utilizing alternative care sites, critical shortages of personal protective equipment or staff, or hospitals approaching 90% of surge capacity
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