Larimer County moves to Colorado's red zone for COVID-19 restrictions. Here's what it means
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Larimer County will again tighten its rules to promote social distancing next week, moving to the red level of COVID-19 restrictions on Tuesday.
"The Larimer County Board of Health has voted to support this transition to Level Red," a news release from the Larimer County department of health stated Friday. "The move is a result of rapidly increasing COVID-19 case counts, positivity rates across all age groups, and significant impacts to hospital utilization within Larimer County over the past several weeks."
Red level defined by the state indicates "severe risk" and disallows any personal gatherings and all indoor dining at restaurants. It limits office operations to 10%.
The changes will go into effect at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
As of Friday, Larimer County’s COVID-19 14-day incidence rate is 819 per 100,000 people, and the positivity rate is 12.1%, according to the health department. And UCHealth and Banner Health systems have 94 patients with COVID-19 in their Larimer County hospitals, up from 51 patients less than two weeks ago.
"Although some restrictions may vary depending upon the industry or location, almost every type of business will be impacted by this change," the news release stated.
"Larimer County businesses are at the heart of our community, and we encourage Larimer County residents to continue to support them as they innovate and adapt to these difficult changes once again,” Larimer County Public Health Director Tom Gonzales said. “We have more testing and knowledge than we did in April but today transmission is greater, cases are higher, and our hospitals are really feeling the impact. Please, we have got to do this together to move forward.”
Larimer County Commissioner Steve Johnson, in a public Facebook post Friday, said the board is "basically abandoning their strategy developed with our epidemiologist to institute targeted restrictions where we are seeing transmission, instead going with a near total lockdown."
Meanwhile, Larimer County's neighbor Weld County has only three ICU beds open and no non-ICU beds available, Gov. Jared Polis said Friday during an afternoon video update on the state's response to the worsening COVID-19 situation.
UCHealth was caring for about 100 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 or suspected COVID-19 infections in Northern Colorado as of Friday morning, spokeswoman Kelly Tracer wrote in an email to the Coloradoan. Some of those hospitals are outside Larimer County.
Positivity rates from UCHealth's testing in the past week are at 19%, Tracer said, "which shows the COVID-19 virus is spreading rapidly in the communities we serve."
"Greeley Hospital is extremely full, and it has been very full for much of the past two weeks. We opened three new ICU rooms just last week, and they were full almost immediately," Tracer said.
Some surge plans have already been put in place and may be expanded, Tracer said, and "we are closely monitoring our staffing levels to make sure we have enough staff and providers to care for patients."
The Weld County COVID-19 dashboard indicates there were 43 ICU hospital beds and 185 non-ICU beds available at Weld County regional hospitals, as of Thursday. But regional hospitals include several outside the county.
The state of Colorado on Thursday flagged Weld County as one among a dozen or so that will move up to the "red" level on its COVID-19 dial, which outlines different levels of restrictions based on current conditions within a county.
But the Weld County commissioners on Friday said they would not adhere to the state's restrictions, the Greeley Tribune reported.
"The county will not enforce a rule confining individuals to their homes for an undetermined length of time,” the statement said. “The county will not enforce a rule that states residents cannot have personal gatherings; the county will not tell the school districts how to provide education to their students; the county will not enforce a rule requiring a reduction of attendees in places of worship; the county will not enforce a rule demanding restaurants close their indoor dining areas; the county will not enforce any rule that forces a business to shut down or impedes their ability to operate.”
“Instead, county government continues to do what it has done since March, which is promote and encourage residents and business owners to take individual responsibility and make decisions to protect themselves, their families, their communities and their businesses,” the statement reads.
Tracer said the best way the public can help the medical community is "to heed the warnings from public health officials. Wear a mask, wash your hands, practice distancing, avoid gatherings of people and stay home if you feel sick."
What are Level Red: Severe risk COVID-19 restrictions
If a county or region reaches Level Red, that means they're seeing new COVID-19 cases at an incidence rate of more than 350 per 100,000 people in a two-week period. The positivity rate over the past 14 days is greater than 15% and hospitalization rates are increasing compared to the previous 14-day period.
- Coloradans in high-risk populations should stay home.
- Personal gatherings are not allowed, regardless of size.
- In-person learning for preschool through fifth grade is suggested; middle schools can do in-person, hybrid or remote learning; and high schools are encouraged to do a hybrid or remote learning model; colleges and universities are encouraged to limit in-person instruction and move to remote learning.
- Restaurants must close to indoor dining. Takeout, curbside and delivery services are still allowed.
- Open air outdoor dining at restaurants is still allowed, but only for parties from the same household.
- Last call for alcohol is 8 p.m. Bars remain closed.
- Offices must operate at 10% capacity.
- Gyms can operate at 10% capacity only.
- Worship services are limited to 25% capacity or 50 people.
- Personal services are limited to 25% capacity or 25 people.
- Counties at this level are not eligible to apply for any new variances from the state, and any existing variances your county has will be reevaluated.
- Indoor entertainment events are canceled.
Rebecca Powell is a content strategist at the Coloradoan, working to connect our community with the answers they seek. Contact her at RebeccaPowell@coloradoan.com. We can't do the important work of keeping our community informed without you. Support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.