Polis announces dial changes, special legislative session targeted at COVID-19 relief

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announced changes to the state’s COVID-19 dial system Tuesday, Nov. 17, adding a new “level purple,” which will be considered the stay-at-home phase of response.

Polis held a news conference via Facebook Live to make the announcement as well as call a special session in the state Legislature, which is targeted at COVID-19 relief.

In the news conference, Polis said the new level purple, which is labeled “extreme risk,” will apply to counties that are reflecting high numbers for all three dial categories: incidence rate, testing positivity rate and increasing hospitalizations. The new level will go into effect Friday, Nov. 20.

Polis said no counties are moving into level purple at this time. However, 10-15 counties will be moving into the newly defined “severe risk” level red, which places restrictions that are similar to a shutdown, without closing everything, Polis said.

Polis wasn’t specific about which counties will move to level red or what exact data metrics will be used to determine the move. However, he did say that counties in level red will prohibit restaurants from serving food indoors, only allowing food outdoors or for takeout or delivery.

Level red also would force restaurants to implement an 8 p.m. last call and only seat customers that are within the same household group, according to a handout given to journalists attending the conference. Gyms and fitness centers would be limited to 10% capacity with a limit of 10 people per room.

According to the handout, all critical and noncritical retail stores would be allowed to operate at 50% capacity with increased curbside pickup and dedicated hours for senior and at-risk populations.

School districts in level red counties will be encouraged to provide in-person learning for pre-K through fifth grade and hybrid online and in-person learning for middle and high schools. The Summit School District has been following this model since the start of the school year.

Polis said the most important thing to know is that the best way to avoid a shutdown is to stay at home and not gather with other households.

“For everyday Coloradans, let’s just focus on what we need to do to get through this,” he said. “The biggest single thing is avoiding interacting, especially indoors, especially in close vicinity to people outside your household.”

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment released an updated COVID-19 status dial Tuesday, Nov. 17. The new dial adds a purple level, which would indicate stay-at-home orders.

It remains to be seen whether Summit County will be one of the counties moving into level red.

Summit County has been reflecting data within the previous level red thresholds for some time. As of Tuesday, the county was reporting 1,088 new cases of the virus per 100,000 people, according to the state’s dashboard.

Over the weekend, however, the county’s positivity rate dropped to 14.5%, which is within the safer-at-home level orange threshold. Summit County’s hospitalizations have not been cause for concern on the state’s dashboard.

At the news conference, Polis also called a special session of the state Legislature targeted at COVID-19 relief.

The special session will focus on creating a small business relief package, housing and rental assistance, support for child care providers and expanding broadband access for students and educators.

Polis and other leaders stressed the need for federal assistance with the virus.

“While the measures that will be discussed in the special session are urgent and necessary right now, our state needs substantially more help from the federal government to continue to respond and recover from this pandemic and implement the vaccination plan,” Polis said.

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