State defers Routt County’s request to loosen COVID-19 restrictions; update expected next week |

State defers Routt County’s request to loosen COVID-19 restrictions; update expected next week

Routt County did not receive approval to transition to the next recovery phase amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In an email sent Thursday, the state health department said the county needs to reduce the number of new cases before it can advance to Safer at Home Level 1.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It will be at least another week before Routt County can transition to the next phase of the COVID-19 recovery process. 

On Thursday, the Colorado Department of Health and Environment deferred a request from the county to move to Safer at Home Level 1, citing a recent rise in cases. This came two days after the Routt County Board of Commissioners submitted a request to loosen local restrictions.

“We would prefer to monitor the county through early next week before we make a determination,” the state health department said in an email to Routt County Public Health Director Roberta Smith.

In the past two weeks, 18 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, which put the county just under the threshold required to advance to the next level of recovery. Routt County would need to have 19 or fewer cases to be eligible, according to the state’s metrics. 

“We were right on the cusp,” Smith explained. 

If metrics improve substantially, the county could be allowed to transition to Level 1 as early as Wednesday, according to the email from the state health department. The most notable change under the next level would be an increase in capacity for things like personal gatherings, indoor and outdoor events, places of worship and group sports and camps.

In response to the news, Smith said she appreciates the state’s caution and urges the community to continue practicing the five commitments to containing the novel coronavirus. These include wearing face coverings in public, staying 6 feet apart, washing hands often, getting testing if symptoms develop and staying home from school or work when feeling sick.

“The more we can keep heeding these things, the more we can open back up,” Smith said.

Potential changes to COVID-19 restrictions

If Routt County is approved to move to the Safer at Home Level 1, some of the changes would include:

  • Personal gathering sizes can increase from 10 to 25.
  • Outdoor events can increase from 175 to 250 with 50% capacity.
  • Indoor Events can increase from 100 to 175 with 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 a 25- to 50-person cap per activity.
  • Retail, offices, personal services and limited health care settings stay the same.
  • The current restaurant variance would no longer be in effect.

Counties across Colorado have seen a recent rise in cases, a trend officials predicted as flu season begins. The number of people who have been hospitalized and have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus has increased 16.4% in the past week, according to data from the state health department.

“I can fully appreciate the state’s concerns looking at other counties in Colorado,” Smith said.

Boulder County, which has seen among the worst rise in new cases, instituted a public health order that prohibits all gatherings of more than two people for anyone between the ages of 18 to 22 within city limits. It also instituted a two-week stay-at-home order for 37 addresses near the University of Colorado Boulder. This comes after several public health violations involving large gatherings without face masks or social distancing. 

Logan and Yuma counties also are among the areas seeing recent spikes in viral spread, which could lead to tighter restrictions if conditions do not improve.

Some counties are doing relatively well in the face of the pandemic. Neighboring Moffat County received approval Sept. 15 to transition to the Protect Our Neighbors recovery phase. 

Routt County needs to advance to the last level of the Safer at Home phase before it could be eligible for Protect Our Neighbors. 

“I know we, as a community, can work together and get our incidence rate lower and get to Level 1,” Smith said.

To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.

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