COVID-19 restrictions tightening in Jeffco as state holds off on a full shut down

Indoor dining, social gatherings banned as county moved to ”Level Red”

Paul Albani-Burgio
palbaniburgio@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 11/17/20

Code Red, Jefferson County. The county will be one of more than a dozen that are moving into the newly-defined "Level Red" designation on the state's COVID-19 public health dial, as Colorado …

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COVID-19 restrictions tightening in Jeffco as state holds off on a full shut down

Indoor dining, social gatherings banned as county moved to ”Level Red”

Posted

Code Red, Jefferson County.

The county will be one of more than a dozen that are moving into the newly-defined "Level Red" designation on the state's COVID-19 public health dial, as Colorado struggles to control the increasingly-rapid spread of COVID-19.

The tighter public health restrictions associated with Code Red take effect at 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 20.

Those restrictions include a prohibition on all indoor restaurant dining, limiting many businesses to just 10% indoor capacity and a call to avoid all personal gatherings outside of one's own household.

Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) confirmed in a county commission board meeting on Nov. 17, that the county would be moved to a redefined Level Red

Earlier in the day, Gov Jared Polis announced that he had revised the state's COVID-19 dial so that Level Red, which had previously been the most restrictive level on the dial and come with a mandated move to a Stay-at-Home order, is now the second most restrictive level and deemed “severe risk”. The most restricted level is now Level Purple, which is deemed “extreme risk” and would trigger a move to a Stay-at-Home order.

JCPH Deputy Director Jody Erwin told the board that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment had first reached out last week about the possibility of introducing a new level to the state COVID dial and moving counties into it late last week.

That conversation came after days of discussion between Denver metro county health departments and the state about the need for a metro area wide response to the increase in cases to be balanced with concern for the impact more intense mitigation efforts could have on businesses.

“We feel like from a public health perspective this balances a lot of the things we have been talking about with not just shutting down some businesses and not other businesses,” said Erwin. “They are leaving some flexibility in some of the economic sectors and hopefully we can have some impact on those cases, on the hospital staff, on our county coroners and all of those people we are trying to take into account as we move in this direction.”

Hospital and coroner staff are two populations that JCPH has become increasingly concerned about in recent days as they risk being unable to keep up with the demand for their services as case counts continue to rise, Erwin said.

“Not every hospital is being overwhelmed but a lot of them are,” he said. “I think the data that I saw two days ago is that 14 hospitals are reporting potential staff shortages in the next week — so we have beds, ventilators but staffing is going to become the critical shortage in the very near future.”

Those staff shortages, which are the result of staff either becoming infected with COVID-19, mean some hospitals on the verge of applying crisis standards of care, which Erwin said could mean hospitals could need to treat patients differently than they normally would.”

Some morgues in the metro area are also reaching capacity, Erwin said, and have reached the point where “refrigerated trucks are literally being used to store bodies.”

Under the move to Level Red, high risk populations are now being told to “stay home” while remote learning is now being suggested, although not required, with “very limited in-person learning” suggested only when necessary.

Offices will now be limited to 10% capacity and “strongly encouraged to implement remote work.” Gyms, meanwhile, will be limited to 10% capacity and need to require reservations. A chart outlining rules for all stages on the updated COVID-19 dial can be found at covid19.colorado.gov.

Erwin also noted that JCPH was also receiving an “incredible amount of negative feedback” over the order. However, he said the department is supportive of the state's move.

“At the end of the day, this is this is a terrible situation for everybody to be in,” he said. “It's not an easy decision for anybody to have to make. But we feel like this is going to save lives at the end of the day and it really gets us closer to a balance than what a Stay-at-Home order would have done.”

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