County requests to keep state COVID dial at yellow

CDPHE wants Garfield County to increase to high-risk orange category

November 18, 2020

Garfield County has asked the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to remain at the moderate yellow level of its COVID-19 dial amid increasing cases in the county. The Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) held a special meeting on Tuesday with CDPHE, which urged the county to move to the more restrictive orange, or “high-risk” category of its “Safer at Home” status.

Yellow or “concern” is when a county has more than 75 to 175 cases per 100,000 people over a 14-day period or a test positivity rate of no more than 10 percent. Orange status is in effect if a county experiences more than 175 to 350 cases per 100,000 people over a 14-day period or a test positivity rate of no more than 15 percent. Garfield County reported 382 new positive cases from Nov. 3 to 16, and a test positivity rate of 12 percent.

Commissioner John Martin noted that any movement in the state COVID dial would not jeopardize any variances already in place here in Garfield County. These allowed restaurants and places of worship to remain open at 50 percent capacity.

“We’re hoping to keep those where they are at 50 percent capacity,” Martin said. “That’s the desire of the county commissioners at this time.”

Commissioner Tom Jankovsky applauded the efforts of Garfield County businesses to ensure the safety of their customers and was opposed to increasing the level to orange.

“What you’re saying to us is, ‘put this on the backs of the small businesses; put this on the backs of the retail shops; put this on the backs of the restaurants and middle class,’” he said. “We know that they can’t take another shut down. It is not right to put this on small businesses. Our public health department has done a good job of mitigation.”

Mara Brosy-Wiwchar, chief of staff at CDPHE, told the board that Colorado has seen the virus run rampant in recent weeks with community transmission. She told the board that the state would consider the request to remain at yellow and get back with the commissioners.

“I appreciate the care and consideration you’ve given to public health and the pandemic,” she said. “Public Health Director Yvonne Long and the Garfield County Public Health Department are really remarkable in their leadership and I really appreciate the efforts they’re taking to keep your constituents safe. … That being said, your community spread has changed drastically from what it was in the summer to what it is currently.”

Brosy-Wiwchar added that the variances allowing the hot springs establishments in town to remain open would not be affected if the county’s COVID dial increased to orange.

On Tuesday, the state also unveiled a new color in its COVID-19 dial, purple, which would be in place under the direst of circumstances with extreme risk of disease spread. Purple is a “Stay at Home” order that would be in effect if hospital and health care services were approaching 90 percent capacity or experiencing a critical lack of staff and personal protection equipment (PPE).

“Psychologically, this impacts the entire community,” Jankovsky said of an increase to orange. “We are having a mental health crisis. Mind Springs Health reported an average of 314 patient sessions per month in the third quarter at the Glenwood Springs office.”

“We have to keep our businesses going. We have to keep our economy going,” Martin added. “We’re trying to survive.”

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