Routt County will use custom COVID-19 dial when state version ends Friday
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Routt County will write its own version of a COVID-19 dial governing local restrictions when the state dial is expected to end Friday.
Last week, the Routt County Board of Commissioners had anticipated adopting the state’s dial as the local public health order, but there is a lack of clarity from state officials — a common frustration for local officials throughout the pandemic — about what state orders will remain when the dial expires.
Routt County Public Health Director Roberta Smith said she learned Wednesday morning the state will maintain some type of baseline public health order, but she currently doesn’t know what that will look like. The state will also issue an order specifically for events, Smith said.
In the absence of state direction, many counties are in the same situation, scrambling to write a new public health order. Smith said Routt County public health leaders are talking with neighboring counties and other resort communities to try to provide some semblance of consistency.
The “mini dial” discussed during Wednesday’s Routt County Board of Health meeting would consist of three levels, ranging from restrictions similar to those imposed at level orange on the current dial to virtually no restrictions at all. It also tries to move away from capacity restrictions on various types of businesses, favoring distancing requirements instead.
“The current dial framework is very extensive in that it calls out capacity limits for certain entities,” Smith said. “What we are proposing in this public health order is more of mask use, social distancing principles that are put into place in our entities within the community.”
Masking requirements would be maintained at all levels of the local dial and would only go away when the order itself is no longer required.
Much of the specifics of these levels, including what colors will be used to represent them, are still under consideration and were being edited during the meeting. The board will meet again Friday to adopt the new order after learning what Gov. Jared Polis announces regarding the state dial that day.
The new county dial is intended to make it easier to get to the lowest level where there are virtually no restrictions other than wearing masks. But it also would provide a way for the county to “snap back” if cases were to increase drastically.
To reach the lowest threshold, the county would need to maintain a 14-day rolling average of 52 cases or less for seven days. This lowest threshold would also require the positivity rate to stay below 5%.
Though there would be no local restrictions, residents would still be subject to any other state orders, which supersede the county’s order.
The county could also reach this level when 75% of residents 16 and older have been fully vaccinated. Currently, about 42% of eligible residents have been fully vaccinated.
The middle, cautious level is where the county would be now on this new dial if approved. The range for this level is a 14-day rolling average between 53 and 256 cases. A positivity rate between 5% and 10% is also a metric for this level, but the county has not had a positivity rate over 10% since the early days of the pandemic when testing was at a fraction of what it is now.
At this level, there would be some local restrictions. People would be required to maintain 6-foot social distancing, and events open to the public with 500 or more people in attendance would need to create a mitigation protocol approved by public health.
The level also requires several things of businesses, many of which they have been doing for months. This includes not allowing an employee who has been told to quarantine, has been exposed to or has tested positive for COVID-19 to come to work. Businesses also must follow various hygiene practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Businesses must post signage about wearing masks and hygiene practices and would also need to prohibit anyone showing symptoms of the virus from entering. Seating needs to be spaced at least 6 feet apart indoors and at least 3 feet apart outdoors. Smith said she wants limits on bars to allow people to adequately space out while sitting at a bar but not allow people to congregate there.
Businesses are also required to adopt policies, such as a reservation system, aimed at reducing customer density.
Rather than parsing out which types of businesses have which restrictions, County Attorney Erick Knaus said he favored going with a blanket approach to avoid any potential legal pitfalls of picking and choosing.
The final, most serious level is what Knaus said he considers the “sky is falling level.” A move to this level would require the county to have case incidence so high it has only been seen for a handful of days in January throughout the course of the pandemic.
Knaus said this level of the county’s dial was made with the intention of having it mimic level orange on the current dial. At this level, personal gatherings would be limited to no more than 10 people from two different households, which would also apply to lodging facilities.
All businesses would need to operate at 50% capacity, and recreational sports, outdoor guided activities and children’s day camps would be limited to 10 people. There are also specific restrictions on events at this level, but those could change by Friday depending on what type of order Polis imposes.
Knaus and Smith will continue to work on the language of the order with approval from the board, which is expected to occur at Friday afternoon’s Board of Health meeting.
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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