Routt County gets OK for move to Level 1 of state’s Safer at Home plan which changes gathering sizes |

Routt County gets OK for move to Level 1 of state’s Safer at Home plan which changes gathering sizes

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment approved Routt County’s request Friday to step down to the first level of the Safer at Home plan, loosening some limits on how many people can gather both inside and outside.

The changes affect personal gatherings, outdoor and indoor events, places of worship and group sports and camps. There are no changes for restaurants because the county was already granted a variance, on May 24, that allowed restaurants to operate at the Level 1 threshold.

Moving to Level 1 is a positive sign for how the county has been containing the virus, but Routt County spokesperson Robin Schepper cautioned against residents letting their guard down.

“Now that we are a Level 1 doesn’t mean it’s party time,” Schepper said.  “We still have to do the prevention measures because that is the only way we can keep this contained.”

At Level One, personal gathering sizes increase from 10 to 25 people, and outdoor events move from 175 to 250 or 50% capacity, whichever is fewer. It also allows indoor events to have 175 people or 50% capacity, whichever is fewer, up from 100, and places of worship to have 175 people indoors, or 50% capacity, whichever is fewer, up from 50. It also allows up to 50 people to participate in group sports and camps, which is double the previous limit.

The state of Colorado has developed a dial that indicates which COVID-19 status level a particular county is in. Routt County has now been moved to Level 1 of Safer at Home.

With the change, Routt County joins 29 other counties in Colorado at Level 1. There are still 29 counties at Level 2 as of noon Friday, and just five at the lowest level, Protect Our Neighbors.

The state health department had deferred the county’s initial request to change levels in late September, saying they wanted to monitor the county’s case count a bit longer. Before the initial request the county had recorded 18 new cases between Sep. 14 and 27, just one below the requirement of 19 to move to Level 1.

But the last two weeks saw improvement with just 11 new cases between Sept. 21 and Oct. 4. The other requirements to move to the lower level are an infection rate below 5% and stable hospitalization numbers. Routt County’s infection rate was 2.4% on Oct. 4 and there was one hospitalization in the last week. 

At a glance

A move to the Safer at Home & in the Vast, Great Outdoors Level 1 means:

  • Personal gathering sizes can increase from 10 to 25
  • Outdoor events can increase from 175 to 250 or 50% capacity
  • Indoor Events can increase from 100 to 175 or 50% capacity
  • Places of Worship can increase from 50% capacity or 50 people to 50% capacity or 175 indoors
  • Group sports and camps can increase from 25 to 50
  • Retail, offices, personal services and limited health care settings stay the same.
  • The current restaurant variance would no longer be in effect.

Even with a cluster of quarantines stemming from two positive cases within the Steamboat Springs School District, Schepper said they seem like a bigger threat to the county’s ability to contain the virus than they really are.

“The schools are doing everything that they can,” she said. “Just because it is a large amount of people that are quarantined, it doesn’t mean that all those people are going to be positive.”

The next goal for the county is to drop to the state’s lowest Protect Our Neighbors threshold for which the county already meets seven of the eight requirements, with the lone unfulfilled metric being the new case count. There would need to be seven or fewer cases in a two-week span to fully qualify. 

The countywide move to Level 1 eliminates a variance in place that allowed restaurants to operate at higher occupancy than the metrics laid out in Level 2. If the county’s ability to contain the virus regresses and it is unable to get back under control within two weeks, forcing a move back to Level 2, they would no longer have that variance.

To further loosen restrictions and ensure that the county does not have to move back to Level 2, residents need to keep wearing masks, washing hands, staying home when sick and getting tested after being in contact with someone with the virus, Schepper said. 

“It seems like people have fatigue, ‘Okay you have said that a million times,’ but that doesn’t change the fact that it works,” she said.

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