COVID-19 restrictions are about to get looser in Jeffco as the county charts what it hopes will be a path out of the pandemic and back to pre-COVID normalcy. On Tuesday, JCPH announced via its …
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COVID-19 restrictions are about to get looser in Jeffco as the county charts what it hopes will be a path out of the pandemic and back to pre-COVID normalcy.
On Tuesday, JCPH announced via its website that it had “issued a new public health order through the recovery phase of the COVID-19 pandemic and back to a full reopening.”
According to the announcement, the order was issued in anticipation of the state retire the COVID-19 dial and associated public health order that have dictated COVID-19 policy in the state's counties for much of the pandemic.
Last month, the state announced that it would repeal the dial on April 16 and pass a new public health order granting county governments greater control over whether to enforce restrictions.
Under the new order, which takes place on April 16, Jeffco will move into Phase 1 of the reopening plan laid out by the order. In phase one, both businesses and individuals will be able to operate under the rules and restrictions of the current dial's Level Blue.
In Level Blue, restaurants and gyms can operate at 100% capacity with six feet of distance between parties while offices can operate at up to 75% capacity. Bars can also reopen at 25% capacity. Jefferson County has been operating in Level Yellow, the next most restrictive level after Level Blue, since April 9 after the county announced its COVID-19 metrics had exceeded the threshholds for remaining in Level Blue.
The new order states that Jeffco will operate in Level Blue for 30 days and there will be no adjustment of restrictions during that period.
Then, on May 15, the county will move to Phase 2 of its reopening plan and start operating in what the statement calls “a new dial level” called Level Clear. In Level Clear, all business will be able to operate in 100 percent capacity with no restrictions. However, the county says indoor mask requirements may still apply.
During Phase 2, which JCPH is billing as an observation period, JCPH will closely monitor hospitalizations as a metric to measure how many severe COVID-19 infections there are in the county. Phase 2 will last until Aug. 15.
The health order lays out criteria for how JCPH will then be able to move the county to more restrictive levels of the current COVID-19 dial if hospitalizations increase beyond certain thresholds.
For example. Jeffco will return to Level Blue if it sees more than two COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 county residents in a 14-day period. It will then move to Level Yellow if it sees more than three COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 people in a 14-day period.
During Phase 1, the Five Star program, which allows approved business to operate at one level below the county's current level on the COVID-19 dial, will be suspended. However, Five Star-approved businesses will be able to operate at one level lower if the county ever has to move beyond Level Clear in Phase 2.
According to JCPH Executive Director Dawn Comstock, Jeffco consulted with leaders from other Denver metro area counties, to determine the path forward following the state's retirement of the dial.
“We are confident this brief phased approach will allow our community to work to get our recent increase in COVID-19 transmission back under control, while we race to quickly vaccinate as many people as we can and prevent another surge driven by more-contagious variants,” Comstock said in a statement. “At the same time, our local businesses can better plan for the near future.”
Several of those other metro area counties, including Adams and Arapahoe counties, will also adopt the same two-phased approach. However, the county commissioners in Douglas County, which is also part of Tri-County Public Health, voted unanimously on Tuesday for their county to opt out of following the Tri-County order establishing the phased approach and proceed with no restrictions.
Recently, Jefferson County has seen increases in its COVID-19 seven-day case incidence rate and test positivity rate. During April 5-11, there were 891 cases of COVID-19 (152.8 per 100,000) in Jefferson County, and the test positivity rate during the same time period was 5.0%.
According to the release, the two phased approach was developed in part because of advice from the Colorado School of Public Health Modeling Team advising to Governor Polis stating that it has concluded that delaying policy changes in Colorado until mid-May will prevent large numbers of deaths and hospitalizations.
However, the release states that JCPH expects vaccine coverage to be sufficient to control COVID-19 transmission in Jeffco by late May.
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