(CBS4) – Colorado is working on a draft proposal that would mean five different levels of COVID-19 protection in counties around the state. The idea comes from a panel discussion of government and health care leaders working with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
“I think it’s actually a really clever way of doing this in a way that makes sense,” said Dr. Michelle Barron, infectious disease specialist at UCHealth.
It will mean a color wheel with five different colors applied to counties based COVID risks. They include:
– Stay at Home Severe
– Level 3 High Risk
– Level 2 Concern
– Level 1 Cautious
– Protect Our Neighbors Careful
Each level would have different rules. At the Protect Our Neighbors level, in-person schooling is suggested for Pre-K-12 students. Bars would be able to reopen and function at 50% capacity. Capacity would be allowed to increase by 5 percent every four weeks. Gatherings of up to 500 people would be allowed. Each step in level would mean more restrictions all the way up to the Stay at Home order.
“It’s really just trying to balance how much impact COVID had with how much disease is circulating in your community,” said Barron. “So if your community doesn’t have COVID it can be controlled without shutting everything down, this allows that to happen without then having to get some kind of variance from the state to do so.”
Counties would have to show a low rate of positive cases below 50 per 100,000 people and have a test positivity rate of below 5% in addition to health care capability to answer changes in caseload.
Some counties in the state don’t currently have cases. Other counties have new case numbers considered “low.” Summit County is one of them.
“We want everybody open. We want 100 percent, but obviously we want to be safe as well,” said Scooter Crawford, owner of the 5th Avenue Grill in Frisco. He noted that people have been generally cooperative with mask orders.
“For the most part, people are wearing their masks and doing their thing. Got to remind some people, but it’s been good,” said Crawford.
“Communities that demonstrate strong commitments to lowering COVID-19 levels have the opportunity to take more control over their reopening plans,” Summit County said in a statement released on the matter.
If a county like Summit were to get the Protect Our Neighbors designation, it could mean significant changes in regulation. But the state proposal does have a mechanism for ratcheting up the color level to add restrictions if case data slides during a two week period.
Counties, like Clear Creek County, with improving COVID numbers, may have further reason to support mask wearing and social distancing because of the opportunity for greater opening.
“Blue level, we need it. Our economy has struggled, it has been struggling … any kind of relief that we can get would benefit us,” said Mike Hillman, Mayor of Idaho Springs, who is also a restaurant owner.
CDPHE is inviting public comment on the draft proposal until noon on Thursday, Sept 3. After that it will consider those comments and then the directive is likely to come out. But, there is no timeline yet for when that will happen.
Here is the state’s draft proposal.