Routt County moves to ‘severe risk’ Level Red of state’s new COVID-19 dial; local 2-week count explodes to 168 cases
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Routt County will move into Level Red — “Severe Risk” — on Colorado’s new COVID-19 dial framework Friday, shutting down restaurants for inside dining, decreasing capacity at offices and gyms and entirely limiting personal gatherings.
Level Red had previously been the highest level on the dial, but state health officials amended it Tuesday, adding another Level Purple, which Gov. Jared Polis described as the most severe stage meaning hospital capacity has been reached in the county.
The new level of restrictions will go in place at 5 p.m. Friday. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment told Routt County officials they will revisit the metrics of the virus in the county the week of Dec. 18, though they could adjust restrictions sooner depending on how the county is doing.
On Tuesday night, the county reported 92 new COVID-19 cases, setting a new record for a two-week case count of 168 cases from Nov. 2 to 15.
“The truth is, seeing this exponential growth that we are experiencing, we clearly need a more drastic shift in behavior to further slow the transmission of the virus and prevent this exponential growth curve from simply overwhelming our ability to take care of people who are sick,” Polis said.
The new restrictions force restaurants to either close or shift to a takeout model and limits offices and gyms to just 10% of their capacity. Students can still go to school, with the state favoring older students shifting to hybrid models or remote learning.
Polis said the main reason for the move was to slow the spread of the virus enough to avoid a total shutdown.
State leaders have resisted moving any county or the state into stay-at-home restrictions, fearing the economic impact, and recognizing that employees do not have the same protections from the federal government they had in the spring and early summer.
“Unfortunately, even as cases have exploded across the country, Congress and the president have not yet passed much needed relief for people,” Polis said.
Counties have been placed in various levels of restrictions in the state’s dial based on three metrics: new case count, positivity rate and hospitalization level.
Previously, the dial had five levels, with the Red “stay at home” level having the harshest restrictions. But state health officials added another Level Purple “Stay at Home Ordered,” which is effectively what Level Red used to be.
“We are adding a new level to the dial in response to out-of-control levels of COVID-19 transmission across the state,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “Coloradans must take proactive steps to reduce the spread of the virus to protect their families and communities.
Based on Routt County’s current metrics, it would have been in Level Red on both the old and new versions of the dial because of its case count. The new dial separates out hospitalizations, making that the sole metric that could move a county into the new Level Purple.
Level Purple is meant for counties that have such strained hospital capacity there is extreme risk of being overrun.
More than 1,500 Coloradans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Tuesday, the highest it has been during the pandemic, according to the state’s dashboard.
“The state provided us with a framework that we now have to follow. With the high number of cases, it is appropriate for Routt County to be at Level Red,” said Routt County Commissioner Tim Corrigan. “Do your part, Routt County. Together we can get through this, but only if we all take personal action.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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Sheila Symons’ son got COVID-19 around Labor Day. He has since missed about five weeks of school, spent five days at Children’s Hospital in Aurora and has seen more doctors than an 11-year-old child should.