Summit County to remain in level orange under new COVID-19 dial

At 9 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 6, Colorado once again will see changes to the COVID-19 dial, the state’s tool for determining restrictions on the county level.

At a news conference Friday, Feb. 5, Gov. Jared Polis and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Executive Director Jill Hunsaker Ryan announced the new dial, which aims to provide a swifter transition between levels. In Summit County, little will change as a result of the new dial, as the county will remain in level orange.

“While this is still a time for caution, these metrics better reflect where we are in the pandemic today, what we’ve learned over the last several months in using the dial and the balance we are trying to strike between disease suppression and economic hardships that restrictions can cause,” Ryan said.

One of the major updates included in the new dial is a transition from using a 14-day average when looking at COVID-19 metrics for each county — case incidence rate, hospitalizations and the percent of positive tests out of total tests — to a seven-day average. That means counties can move up or down the dial in a matter of a week.

To compensate for that change, the new dial also has different thresholds for each metric. The two changes likely will be beneficial for the county, health officials said.

“It’s really tough to meet that 14-day period of metrics before we can move to another level of restriction,” Summit County Public Health Director Amy Wineland said at a town hall Friday. “Now that we’re vaccinating more of our population — especially our older adults in our community — we’re definitely going to see a decrease in impact on our hospital system and health care system. In fact, we already are. It’s really important that we update our metrics and our thresholds based on that.”

To move into less restrictive levels, counties must show all three metrics in the less restrictive level or lower. For example, in order to move to level yellow, Summit County would need to report a seven-day incidence rate of fewer than 300 new cases per 100,000 people and a testing positivity rate of no more than 7.5%.

At the town hall, Wineland said the county’s seven-day incidence rate is at 377 new cases per 100,000 people as of Friday, which falls within level orange on the dial. The seven-day positivity rate is at 6.4%, which falls into level yellow.

Under the new dial, the state will be looking at incidence rate when determining whether a county needs to move into a more restrictive level. So, Summit County could move to level red if it shows a seven-day incidence rate of 500 new cases or higher.

Counties also are at risk of moving into a more restrictive level if they are experiencing “a lack of sufficient testing or strain on the regional or state hospital system,” according to Ryan’s presentation.

“A county can be moved on disease incidence levels alone, so it’s really critical that we continue to do those behaviors that we know stop the spread of this virus,” Wineland said.

Summit County businesses that are part of the 5 Star Business Certification Program likely will see a change after the introduction of the new dial. Once the county shows seven days of all three metrics being in level orange, five-star businesses will be able to open with level yellow capacity.

Join me for an update on the state’s response to COVID-19. Today I’m with Jill Hunsaker Ryan, Executive Director of the…

Posted by Governor Jared Polis onFriday, February 5, 2021

The new level yellow allows for restaurants to open with 50% capacity or up to 150 people, whichever is fewer. Under the old dial, the level yellow capacity was 100 people.

The new dial also includes some incentive for counties to help move the state along in its vaccine distribution process. Five-star businesses in counties that are in level yellow won’t be able to operate under level blue restrictions until 70% of the state’s population of people ages 70 and older is vaccinated.

At the town hall, officials also announced that the local five-star program will expand to personal service businesses — such as hair salons, barber shops and massage parlors — starting next week.

The county plans to do another town hall Monday, Feb. 8, to talk about the new dial’s impact on the five-star program, Assistant County Manager Sarah Vaine said. The time for that town hall is still to be determined.

“It’s so exciting that we get to move in the direction of less restrictions,” Wineland said. ”Our community needs it.”

    Dial changes

    The new state COVID-19 dial has new thresholds for each metric that is used. The new metrics are as follows:

    Level red

    • New dial: Seven-day incidence rate over 500 new cases per 100,000 people, 10% or higher testing positivity rate or a strained hospital system capacity requiring state assistance

    • Old dial: 14-day incidence rate over 350 new cases per 100,000 people, over 15% positivity rate and increasing hospitalizations

    Level orange

    • New dial: Seven-day incidence rate of 300-500 new cases per 100,000 people and lower than 10% testing positivity

    • Old dial: 14-day incidence rate of 175-350 new cases per 100,000 people and a positivity rate of no more than 15%

    Level yellow

    • New dial: Seven-day incidence rate of 100-300 new cases per 100,000 people and a testing positivity rate of no more than 7.5%

    • Old dial: 14-day incidence rate of 100-175 new cases per 100,000 people and no more than 10% positivity rate

    Level blue

    • New dial: Seven-day incidence rate of 15-100 new cases per 100,000 people and a positivity rate that is less than 5%

    • Old dial: 14-day incidence rate of 75 or fewer new cases per 100,000 people and less than 5% positivity

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