As local COVID-19 cases continue to decline, Routt County could ask state next week to move to less restrictive level yellow
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Routt County Board of Health decided Friday to take steps to ease restrictions, with a possible move to level yellow on the state’s COVID-19 2.0 dial, a decision ultimately requiring approval from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
The county will decide at its next meeting Wednesday whether or not to submit a letter to the state requesting the change to level yellow.
“Taking this first step on amending our local public order is rational and reasonable,” Routt County Commissioner Tim Corrigan said. “Being cautious is the right thing to do.”
The board also implemented a revised local public health order, which requires that personal gatherings follow the state’s level orange restrictions, permitted for no more than two households and 10 people.
In addition, office-based businesses can move to 25%. The local public health order is in effect until the end of March.
The decision comes after Routt County’s COVID-19 cases have fallen since its spike earlier this year, with 56 positive cases in the past seven days, representing a 5.21 positivity rate.
Dr. Fritha Morrison, Routt County epidemiologist, said she is hopeful cases continue to decline but believes the county should be a bit cautious after this week’s Blue’s Break, when people may have traveled or gathered in large groups.
“I think all of us on the team are hopeful, and I think we’ve gotten through our worst month of January,” said Dr. Brian Harrington, Routt County Public Health chief medical officer. “I think that we’re on a permanent downward trend of cases, but there is always a possibility that we could have another spike.”
Harrington and Routt County Public Health Director Roberta Smith both said the county could be underestimating about 20 positive cases due to a decline in testing.
“The majority of people who get tested have symptoms, so if our tests are going down that probably means we have fewer people with symptoms,” Harrington added.
Routt County has also vaccinated 73% of residents older than 70, which Brooke Maxwell, public health nurse, said means the county can likely move into vaccinating those between 65 and 69 soon. UCHealth is already vaccinating some teachers and those in that age group.
The county is at 17% overall for vaccinated residents, which Maxwell called “pretty encouraging.”
Due to the storms and cold fronts in other parts of the U.S., the county didn’t receive any vaccines this week and likely won’t next week either. However, Harrington said the county could see an increase in doses shipped later on, which he said could even things out in the long term.
Gov. Jared Polis announced that the next priority group, which includes essential workers, will start sometime in March. Smith said the county is hoping to receive more direction from the state on how essential workers are classified, but the county is currently working with Steamboat Springs City Council to identify restaurant workers and others working in high-risk environments.
“We are hopeful when there is more supply, we can operationalize some large clinics in Routt County,” Smith added.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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Twenty months after the South Routt School District announced it would close because of a burgeoning coronavirus, COVID-19 is more prevalent in South Routt than ever before.