Summit County officials urge state to continue mask mandate
Health board also discusses new coronavirus metrics
KEYSTONE — Since the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Summit County officials have emphasized the importance of wearing a mask to prevent spreading the virus. They aren’t letting up on that message any time soon.
At a joint Board of Health and Summit Board of County Commissioners meeting Tuesday, Sept. 1, county officials discussed their plans to write a letter to the state urging a continuance of its mandatory mask order, which is set to expire Sept. 13.
“It is the most successful tool we have right now to fight this virus, and so it doesn’t make sense to let go of that in this time and going into fall with cold and flu season,” Public Health Director Amy Wineland said. “It just doesn’t seem prudent to me to let go of that valuable protective factor.”
Mask usage also will play an important role when the county eventually decides to move into the protect-our-neighbors phase of reopening, which allows all activities to resume at up to 50% capacity or 500 people, whichever is fewer.
“Even to apply to protect our neighbors, we have to demonstrate how we’re going to encourage mask-wearing,” Wineland said.
At the meeting, the board discussed potential changes to how the state will evaluate counties hoping to move into the protect-our-neighbors phase. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment released draft metrics for how counties will be able to move through the safer-at-home phase and into the protect-our-neighbors phase.
Currently, every county is in the safer-at-home phase. The new metrics will give counties more of an idea how close they are to qualifying for the next phase. The draft metrics outline three levels within the safer-at-home phase, with Level 1 labeled “cautious,” Level 2 labeled “concern” and Level 3 called “high risk.”
Each level has a different set of restrictions for businesses, schools and events. For example, the state suggests that schools go remote in a county that has to move back to Level 3.
Counties that meet all of the following metrics at each level for a two-week period will be able to move forward with fewer restrictions:
- Safer at home Level 3: Counties with 175-350 new cases per 100,000 people, at most a 15% positivity rate, increasing hospitalizations, a worsening epidemic curve, anticipated future transmission risks and none of the eight protect-our-neighbors metrics met.
- Safer at home Level 2: Counties with 75-175 new cases per 100,000 people, at most a 10% positivity rate, stable or declining hospitalizations, a stable or improving epidemic curve, anticipated future transmission risks and none of the eight protect-our-neighbors metrics met.
- Safer at home Level 1: Counties with zero to 75 new cases per 100,000 people, at most a 5% positivity rate, stable or declining hospitalizations, a stable or improving epidemic curve, no anticipated future transmission risks and at least four of the eight protect-our-neighbors metrics met.
- Protect our neighbors: Counties with zero to 25 new cases per 100,000 people, less than 5% positivity rate, stable or declining hospitalizations, no anticipated future transmission risks and all eight protect-our-neighbors metrics met.
Counties that fail to meet the metrics at their current level will be given a two-week grace period, according to the draft document. If the county continues to fall behind on metrics, the state health department will meet with county officials to develop strategies for getting back on course.
Wineland said the new system shouldn’t worry anyone.
“What’s important for everyone to understand is that we’re still going to have a lot of local input in terms of what mitigation steps we’re taking,” she said. “We’re still going to be able to look at what it is that’s happening here locally, where we see the cases rise.”
The state health department is asking for feedback on the draft metrics, which people are able to submit by noon Thursday, Sept. 3, at COVID19.CDPHE.gov. The local health board plans to submit feedback, asking for the state to require masks in the protect-our-neighbors phase and for the new metrics to be implemented after Labor Day, County Manager Scott Vargo said.
The county wants to focus on reminding people to follow physical distancing protocols over the holiday when there will be more visitors.
“Across the state, we absolutely saw a bump of cases over the Fourth of July weekend,” Wineland said. “It’s really important that we comply with the public health order and have no gatherings over 10.”
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