By Andrea Flores

(CBS4) – The relaxing of restrictions in Colorado comes as new strains of COVID-19 are turning up around the world. One of them has been detected in Colorado. The move from Level Red to Level Orange came Monday — on the same day the United Kingdom forced a full lockdown due to the same contagious COVID variant found in Colorado. As cases and hospitalizations go down, doctors say the partial reopening should be approached with caution.  
Under Level Orange, indoor dining is allowed at 25% capacity. Last call moves from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Gyms can operate at 25% capacity. Indoor event and live entertainment venues can have 25% capacity as well. 
“Yes, there is a potential risk there, and yes, I have some concerns,” said Dr. Eric Hill, Emergency Services Chair for the Medical Center of Aurora. “If what we know about this variant is true and it becomes widespread in Colorado, I would predict that our numbers would increase dramatically in a fairly short time period because it’s supposed to be much more contagious, in which case we might end up in a situation where we’re back in the red category again.” 

Dr. Eric Hill

Dr. Eric Hill (credit: CBS)

Colorado doctors are weighing risk versus reward as counties move to Level Orange. Dr. Michelle Barron, Director of Infection Prevention at UCHealth, understands both sides. 
“It’s not ideal, but it’s probably not ideal for restaurant owners and for the people that work there either,” said Dr. Barron. ““I think it’s all about trying to make balances, and I think this is where the public response is going to be really important in terms of doing their due diligence, and not showing up if they know they’re not feeling well.”

Hill says relaxed rules and a new vaccine don’t mean you should let your guard down. 
“I really hope people continue to support local businesses, and get everyone through this, but at the same time doing it in a responsible way,” Dr. Hill said. “Yes, there are some promising numbers over the last couple of weeks, but this is a long process and it’s not going to be over anytime soon. If we want to be able to maintain that, and we want to be able to have access to some of these businesses, and restaurants, and gyms, we’ve got to do everything we can outside of them to really mitigate our infection risk.”

Andrea Flores