Routt County still in level orange, despite state COVID-19 dial changes
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — While the state of Colorado’s new COVID-19 dial changed the level in which most counties in the state now fall, Routt County’s place on the dial did not change and level orange restrictions remain in place.
Fifty of the state’s 64 counties shifted down on the dial as state health officials reworked the case metrics required for each restriction level. Routt County had been in level red metrics on the previous version of the dial but was enforcing level orange restrictions.
Under the new metrics, the 100 new cases in the county in the past seven days put the county within level orange metrics. To move to level yellow, which would loosen most capacity limits to 50%, there needs to be 76 new cases or less in a week.
Dubbed Dial 2.0, revisions largely did not change capacity limits at any of the levels on the dial. Instead, it lowered the case incidence at each level and shifted how cases are counted from 14 days to a seven-day period. This was done to allow counties to move more quickly on the dial both up and down.
“Dial 2.0 is designed so that counties can swiftly move into more restrictive levels when their numbers go up and more quickly into recovery when their numbers go down,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Gov. Jared Polis said counties need to act quickly when there is a spike in cases. In January, Pitkin County saw the highest case incidences of anywhere in the state during the pandemic.
“They themselves took the step of moving to red, and they brought that case count down by over 70% in just a two-week period,” Polis said. “The way the counties react really matters and makes a tangible difference on saving lives.”
Of the 14 counties that didn’t move on the dial with the change, most of them are home to ski resorts.
While most of the state has been seeing declining cases for most of 2021, counties that are home to destination ski resorts have seen a different trend with increasing cases.
On Monday, Routt, Eagle, Summit and Rio Blanco counties were the only ones in the state with level orange metrics. Grand, Lake and San Miguel counties were higher with level red metrics. Apart from Crowley County in eastern Colorado, which has fewer than 6,000 people, every other county in the state has level yellow or lower metrics.
Polis said Colorado has avoided breaching its hospital capacity so far during the pandemic because of the dial and the personal choices people are making.
Getting people over age 70 vaccinated will also help with hospital capacity, Polis said, because they represented more than 40% of all hospitalizations from COVID-19. In Routt County, 63% of this population has received the first dose of the vaccine.
“We want to make sure that in the final months of the pandemic, we don’t have the worst months of the pandemic,” Polis said.
What would allow Routt County to move on the dial?
To move to level yellow on the new dial, Routt County must have 76 cases or less in a seven-day period and have a positivity rate below 7.5%. Updated late Sunday, the county’s COVID-19 dashboard reported 100 cases in the past seven days, 24 more than allowed at level yellow. Positivity is within level yellow parameters, with 6.7% of tests coming back positive.
At level yellow, capacities for restaurants, gyms, fitness centers, offices and some events would increase to 50%. State health officials will move a county on the dial after confirming metrics with county health officials.
Routt County has a local public health order in place that puts additional measures in place, like limiting gatherings. So even if the county is moved on the dial, that order will remain in effect unless changed by the Routt County Board of Commissioners.
Having more than 126 cases within a week would put the county in level red metrics, but state health officials will not immediately move a county. Instead, they encourage counties to pass a local order with level red restrictions. CDPHE will move a county to level red if regional hospital capacity is under pressure either from lack of staffing or too many patients.
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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Since Christmas, about 6% of all Routt County residents have tested positive for COVID-19. About a quarter of all cases locally since the start of the pandemic have come since Dec. 26.