State puts Summit County in 2nd level of safer-at-home coronavirus response

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment released a new dial system for measuring response to the novel coronavirus. Summit County currently falls into the Level 2 section of the dial.
Screenshot from Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to remove capacity requirements for indoor and outdoor events.

KEYSTONE — Summit County now knows where it stands within the safer-at-home phase of the novel coronavirus response.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on Tuesday, Sept. 15, released its finalized “dial” system for measuring county progress throughout the pandemic. The dial places each county within one of five levels based on case numbers, hospitalizations and positivity rate. 

Every two weeks, counties are able to apply to move into a level with fewer restrictions. 

According to the state’s website, Summit County is in safer-at-home Level 2, which is the middle of the dial and labeled “concern.” However, officials are confident the county will be able to apply to move into safer-at-home Level 1, labeled “cautious,” in the next two weeks. 

The state determined the levels by looking at whether the counties were already approved for a variance from the safer-at-home order. Because Summit County has not been approved for a variance, it fell into Level 2 instead of Level 1, Public Health Director Amy Wineland said at a joint Summit County Board of Health and Summit Board of County Commissioners meeting Tuesday, Sept. 15. 

“It’s kind of interesting that they decided to do that, but that’s where they put us,” she said. “We can apply to move to a less restrictive level after two weeks of meeting the metrics for that level.”

To move into Level 1, the county will have to maintain zero to 75 new cases of the virus per 100,000 people and a no greater than 5% positivity rate in the next two weeks. The county also will have to submit letters from the public health department, St. Anthony Summit Medical Center and county commissioners to move into the next level. 

The Summit County Board of Health discusses the new state “dial” during a virtual meeting Tuesday, Sept. 15.
Screenshot from Board of Health meeting

Each level has a different set of guidance provided by the state. 

Under Level 2, most activities are limited to 50% capacity or 50 people, including restaurants, retail stores, personal services, offices and places of worship.

Gyms and fitness centers are limited to 25% capacity or 50 people whichever is fewer. The Level 2 guidance also requires people in the county to limit personal gatherings to 10 people and suggests schools continue with a hybrid in-person and online learning model. 

If the county is approved to move into Level 1, personal gatherings of up to 25 people are allowed. The state also allows restaurants and places of worship to operate at 50% capacity or up to 175 people. 

However, the county can decide to have more restrictions at each level. Wineland suggested having a smaller capacity on gathering sizes once the county makes it to Level 1. 

The goal is for the county to eventually move into the protect-our-neighbors phase, which allows for any activity to occur at 50% capacity with up to 500 people. Mesa, Rio Blanco, Gilpin, Moffat and Gunnison counties are the only counties that have made it to that level.

While the county’s numbers are currently strong, officials are worried about case numbers increasing after the Labor Day holiday. Wineland said the county has seen an uptick in the number of cases and the positivity rate in the past week. 

A party over Labor Day weekend at a short-term rental in Breckenridge led to an outbreak of at least two cases of the virus as well.

“We’re hearing about more gatherings over the weekend that occurred over Labor Day,” she said. “We know that it’s really important to continue to have social connections for our behavioral health and our mental health. It’s critical. It’s really also important that we continue to not see gatherings of more than 10. Do it safely; wear your mask.”

Officials said it’s especially important that people continue to get tested if they have any cold- or flu-like symptoms as the county is not currently meeting the protect-our-neighbors metric for testing. 

“I think that there has maybe been reluctance or a little bit of complacency where folks are just thinking, ‘Well, it’s just the allergies,’” County Manager Scott Vargo said. “Now we’ve opened up schools and that puts more people together where maybe over the course of the last several weeks or months they haven’t been together in quite the same way. It’s not unexpected that we’re seeing some of this, but we want to get in front of it.” 

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