Routt County updates public health order, extends it until end of February 2021 |

Routt County updates public health order, extends it until end of February 2021

New cases declined again last week continuing a recent trend, but local health officials say there could be an increase in the near future.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Routt County updated the local public health order Wednesday, which is set to expire at the end of the year, extending it until the end of February 2021, adding provisions and clarifying language to make certain aspects more enforceable.

Like previous orders, the new order maintains indoor mask requirements and incorporates all state public health orders, such as the dial framework. It also outlines the exceptions to level red restrictions the county has in place, such as restaurants operating at 25% capacity.

“This public health order incorporates all executive orders that are issued by the governor and all state public health orders and state guidance,” said Erick Knaus, Routt County attorney.

On Tuesday, the Colorado Department of Pubic Health and Environment approved the county’s updated mitigation plan submitted last week. This allows gyms, fitness centers and indoor pools to operate at 25% capacity and outdoor pools to operate at 50% capacity. These changes are included in the updated order.

Knaus said some of the changes came from feedback from local law enforcement about how the mask order could be more enforceable.

The order also includes a provision acknowledging the 5-Star variance program in the county. The county is not yet eligible for the program, but the program’s administrative committee is working to set it up and get businesses certified.

The order comes as new cases of COVID-19 in the county decreased again this week, with the 48 new cases being the lowest in a week since late October. The county’s two-week case count of 111 is just 22 cases above the upper threshold for level orange on the dial.

“I believe this is real,” Nicole Harty, county epidemiologist, said about the decline in cases. “I do think that it is pretty clear what is happening here. Our cases are declining, and that tracks with the state.”

Cases numbers may be low because there was a decrease in testing last week because of the holiday. Still, Dr. Brian Harrington, Routt County chief medical officer, pointed to the lower test positivity in the county, saying it was a sign the decrease is real.

According to county data, test positivity in the county is around 4%, which is lower than state data that lists the county’s test positivity at nearly 5%. Harty said the state and the county calculate test positivity differently, but for most of the pandemic the number from each has been tracking together. Harty said she is working to figure out the discrepancy that has shown up in the past week.

“No matter which number you are using, we are still 5% or below, which is good to see,” Harty said.

Routt County saw more cases from visitors this week than in any week since it started tracking that data in November. Based on visitor cases and what public health has learned through contact tracing, Harty said it suggests the county could see an increase in cases in the coming weeks.

“Our cases are going down, and that is great,” Harty said. “I don’t know if they are going to continue to go down. We’ll have to see how this all comes together.”

Harty said cellphone data shows that about 46% of all activity in Routt County originates in the county. That means a little more than half of activity comes from people who do not live in the county and are visiting.

While some of them likely come from neighboring counties, many come from out of state. Harty said the visitor risk comes primarily from Texas and Florida, two states where cases are higher and staying higher, according to The New York Times.

Last week, county officials discussed adding more clarification about short-term rental units in a new public health order restricting units to just one household. Knaus had said he felt it necessary because of a lack of clarity in the state’s order.

But Wednesday, Knaus said the state clarified their order, which does not allow multiple households to stay in the same short-term rental unit.

“Lodging facilities are not allowed to except members from separate residences for the purpose of establishing a tertiary residence or household within that lodging facility,” Knaus said.

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