Summit officials express frustrations about moving back to level orange
County is still developing a plan for after the state dial expires
Summit County officials expressed their frustrations in a Board of Health meeting Tuesday that the state would be moving the county backward on the COVID-19 dial.
The move from level yellow to level orange restrictions takes effect at 6 a.m. Wednesday, reducing capacity at most business types to 25%. Businesses in the 5 Star State Certification Program can operate under level yellow restrictions, which generally allow up to 50% capacity with some limits.
The only other county in Colorado under level orange restrictions is Pitkin County, home of Aspen. According to local officials, Summit County has one of the highest positivity rates in the state at 9.1%. The incidence rate stands at 384.1 new cases per 100,000 residents.
Public Health Director Amy Wineland reported that cases “are way above the threshold for moving into level orange” and that “we’ve really actually been there for the last 10 days.”
Officials at the meeting said they asked the state to remain in level yellow, citing the end of spring break and reduced tourism, but that the state ultimately decided to move the county because of its high incidence and positivity rates. Summit County will not be eligible to move back into level yellow until it meets that level’s metrics for seven consecutive days, meaning the positivity rate, or the number of tests that return positive, must fall below 7.5% and the incidence rate must be below 300.
“I want to express that I’m concerned and also frustrated about being moved into orange,” Summit County Commissioner Josh Blanchard said. “Our county has all these unique sets of circumstances that we’ve been talking about with out-of-town visitation rates. In fact, spring break has just ended. We’ve been talking about (how) our numbers are likely to drop in the coming weeks.”
Blanchard went on to say “the decision felt shortsighted.”
County Commissioner Tamara Pogue called the move “deeply frustrating,” saying the “business community cannot hang on for much longer.”
The board members also expressed concerns about the pending expiration of the state dial — which is expected to happen in mid-April, returning control to local governments — and the development of a local strategic plan for after that time.
A final decision on the dial is expected to come from the state in the next week or so.
“As far as I see it, we are in orange per the state order for at least a week, and then on (April) 15, we are likely going to find ourselves in a completely different scenario because the governor is returning us to local control,” Pogue said. “Whether or not that happens, we still need to be prepared, and our business community and our residents do not know what to expect right now.
“They don’t know what our goals are. They don’t know what metrics we’re going to look at. They don’t know what our restrictions are going to look like besides the fact that we’re going to have some. I just feel like we’re way behind where we need to be in terms of being ready for what is essentially going to become our reality in a week most likely.”
County Manager Scott Vargo said the public health department is collecting data to help determine some of those local parameters for when the state removes the dial framework. That includes developing a timeline for when restrictions on personal gatherings might ease.
Health officials are still determining what metrics should be used for the new plan.
At a Board of Health meeting last week, Assistant County Manager Bentley Henderson said businesses are pushing for the county to consider alternative metrics for restrictions, including weighing things like hospitalizations more than cumulative incident rates. Summit County’s hospitalization rate has remained solidly in level blue with 14 or more day of declining or stable hospitalizations.
Health officials also emphasized the role vaccinations will play in helping to ease restrictions. Of county residents, 53% have received at least one dose of the vaccine and about 33% are fully vaccinated, according to data on the county’s website. County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said in a Facebook post Monday night that more than 1,000 first doses would be distributed this week.
The following places offer testing for the virus in Summit County:
• Centura Health’s Centers for Occupational Medicine in Frisco: Testing available daily by appointment at the Vista Professional Building. To schedule an appointment, call 970-668-5584.
• State testing in Silverthorne: Drive-thru testing available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily at 591 Center Circle. No appointment, insurance or identification required.
• Vail Health testing in Breckenridge: Testing available by appointment from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays at the Speakeasy Movie Theater, 103 S. Harris St. To book an appointment, go to VailHealth.org/covidscheduling.
The following links have information about how to get vaccinated:
• Get on a list to be vaccinated through the public health department in Summit County, or any other county: CoMassVax.org
• Centura Health: Centura.org/covid-19/covid-19-vaccine-information
• List of vaccination providers across Colorado: CoCOVIDVaccine.org
People ages 16 and older are eligible for the vaccine. People with questions about the local response to COVID-19 can call the county’s hotline at 970-668-9730 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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