Boulder and Jefferson counties announced Wednesday that they will tighten restrictions on retail, restaurants and offices because of rising numbers of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations as Colorado contends with a broader surge of the disease.
Boulder County said it would move to Level 3 of Gov. Jared Polis’ statewide safer-at-home status on Friday. Jefferson County said it, too, would move to Level 3, also known as the “orange” or “high-risk” level, but on Monday.
Under the status, businesses, including restaurants and retail, as well as places of worship and offices can only operate at 25% of their capacity, down from 50%.
Indoor events venues are capped at 25% of their capacity, or up to 50 people. Outdoor events have a 75-person limit.
The state also recommends that counties under safer-at-home Level 3 status move K-12 schools to either fully remote learning or to a hybrid remote-and-in-person scheme. Health officials recommend limiting in-person learning “as appropriate.”
“This is devastating,” Jeff Zayach, Boulder County Public Health’s executive director, said in a written statement, “especially because we know that we can prevent the transmission of this virus and this change will impact our businesses severely, as well as our social and emotional health.”
Jefferson County Public Health officials had a similar response to the news.
“We were hoping we could avoid these new restrictions, but unfortunately cases have continued to increase in Jeffco and across the state,” Dr. Margaret Huffman, director of community health services at JCPH, said in a written statement.
Denver and Adams counties were forced last week to move into Level 3 status.
Dr. Eric France, chief medical officer at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said Wednesday that there are at least 18 counties that have case rates that could force them into the state’s most stringent “stay-at-home” level. In that status, a county is required to return to lockdown status, similar to what was occurred in March when the pandemic first arrived in Colorado.
“I think over the next days we’ll hear about more counties (that) may move closer to the stay-at-home (status),” France said during a remote briefing with reporters.
France explained that the last thing the state wants to do is impose lockdowns on counties that continue to see rising cases and hospitalizations. He suggested overnight curfews, such as one imposed by officials in Pueblo recently, could be a way for counties to stave off a full-blown return to stay-at-home.
There were 847 people hospitalized in Colorado with coronavirus on Wednesday. CDPHE the state is expected in the next day or two to surpass the coronavirus hospitalizations record of 888 set on April 14.
Meanwhile, cases continue to be reported at their highest rate in Colorado since the pandemic began. The state’s seven-day average test positivity rate was 9.31% on Wednesday, far above the 5% threshold at which the World Health Organization recommends governments start implementing tougher restrictions on people’s movement.
Gov. Jared Polis has said he now favors a localized approach to slowing the spread of COVID-19, but the disease is now spreading across the state at a clip that hasn’t been seen since spring. As of Wednesday, 47 of Colorado’s 64 counties have a very high one-week cumulative coronavirus incidence rate of more than 100 infections per 100,000 people.