By Jamie Leary

PITKIN COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – While some counties are looking toward fewer restrictions under the new state dial, Pitkin county took a step toward more. On Wednesday, the state moved Pitkin County back into level Orange restrictions.

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The county’s 5-Star certified businesses can operate under level Yellow, but all others must operate under level Orange. This means 25% capacity in gyms, restaurants, and offices. It also limits personal gatherings to no more than 10 people from 2 households.

READ MORE: Testing For COVID Ramping Up Again In Colorado

“The variant is a challenge here as it is across the state,” said Jordana Sabella, Interim Public Health Director for Pitkin County. “I think the additional challenges that we see here is spring break and our tourist-based economy. So it’s great that we’re able to welcome guests here but what we do see is when we do have increases in mobility and visitors to the community, our incidence rate trails upward.”

(credit: CBS)

Controlling the spread in Colorado’s high country has been a challenge. In Pitkin, the spread has been due to large, private gatherings. Congregate housing has been a pressure point for many mountain communities.

“A lot of folks have roommates especially who are here working seasonal jobs so that’s another source of exposure,” said Sabella.

The latest data shows more than 500 cases in one week in Pitkin County, with a positivity rate of 8.2 percent. To move back to level yellow, the county would have to stay below an average of 90 cases per day for a week and maintain a positivity rate below 7.5%.

READ MORE: Vaccination Rate Keeps Colorado Hospitals Out of Jeopardy

(credit: CBS)

Pitkin County has one of the highest testing rates in the state, while it could be one factor contributing to the higher case counts, it’s clear spread is still rapidly occurring along with an increasing presence of the new variants.

“For those that have to quarantine, if they’ve been exposed to the variant, they have to quarantine for 14 days because of the increased transmissibility of those variants as well as research is finding that they have longer incubation periods,” she said.

Summit County isn’t far behind Pitkin, with 316 cases reported over a one-week period. The hope is that vaccines continue to roll in.

“We’re just still passing along the message that the pandemic is not yet over. We just need our residents and visitors to continue to wear masks,” Sabella continued, “we know COVID is still a threat we’ve gotta be vigilant and we know that brighter days are ahead. The vaccine offers a lot of hope and so when it is your turn, when you are able to get vaccinated go and get in line. It’s what’s gonna be able to pull us out of this in the long run.”

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This week Pitkin County received nearly 1,700 doses, which it plans to administer on Thursday to its 1B.4 group.

Jamie Leary