Rising COVID-19 numbers jeopardize Arapahoe County’s Safer at Home Level 1 status
Tri-County Health Department issues an Emergency Public Health Order to help suppress the virus
In response to recent increases in COVID-19 case rates and related data, the Tri-County Health Department, in coordination with Arapahoe County and its 13 municipalities, is implementing new measures designed to slow case increases in Arapahoe County.
“This emergency public health order is an attempt to lower the increasing cases of COVID-19 in order to protect the health of our community and avoid the need for further reductions in community activities such as businesses, schools, and houses of worship in Arapahoe County,” said John M. Douglas, Jr., MD, Executive Director of Tri-County Health Department. “I know it gets old and that everyone has COVID fatigue, but there is strong reason to believe that infection could further spread and hospitalizations increase as we move further into the fall and winter. There will be light at the end of the tunnel as new vaccines become available, and we just cannot let our guard down yet.”
The Emergency Public Health Order, which goes into effect at 11 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, requires the following changes for Arapahoe County residents and businesses:
- All alcohol sales at restaurants and bars within the County will end at 11 p.m. instead of midnight
- Personal gatherings (such as groupings of families, friends and neighbors) are restricted to 10 people or fewer, instead of the 25-person limit.
- Nonessential, office-based businesses are encouraged to increase telecommuting within office-based environments.
The order is slated to expire at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020, unless otherwise extended.
There are several reasons for these steps. First, Tri-County Health Department’s contact tracing and case investigation have revealed that many people who have tested positive for COVID-19 have attended private gatherings during their time of likely exposure. Second, limiting sale of alcohol has been an effective step in other jurisdictions, including statewide, following restrictions during July. Third, we are seeing a growing number of outbreaks across the county, many of which are related to places of employment.
According to the state’s dial dashboard tracking system, Arapahoe County’s COVID-19 incidence rate has climbed in recent weeks to 192.6 and its test positivity rate has increased to 5.1%, which shows community spread. The incidence rate is consistent with the State’s Safer at Home Level 3 Dashboard metrics, while the positivity rate is almost double what it was several weeks ago. Moreover, the County’s early monitoring fecal system shows that these increases will continue at least into next week before they might level off. The County’s hospitalization rates still remain within an acceptable range.
“No one wants to see our communities and economy return to the widespread shutdowns we had this past spring,” said Arapahoe County Board of Commissioners Chair Nancy N. Sharpe. “If we implement these mitigation measures now, we may be able to reverse these trends. It’s up to everyone to continue to do their part to stop the spread of the virus.”
The County has been implementing mitigation measures in collaboration with its cities and health department since Oct. 2, 2020, when the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment formally notified the county of its mitigation status. With case counts continuing to rise, the County needed to take additional measures to satisfy CDPHE’s concerns and stave off more drastic restrictions.
“Our residents have been great at wearing masks and implementing the safety protocols – and we need you to ‘Keep It Up,’” said Englewood Mayor Linda Olson. “With community spread likely coming from people we know rather than from strangers, it’s more important than ever to stay vigilant and implement these new measures.”
The County currently sits at Safer at Home Level 1. A retreat to Level 2 would trigger a range of new restrictions, including tighter capacity limits on offices, businesses, restaurants and houses of worship; group sports, gyms and bars; and even on certain outdoor activities.
“Our business community has been working diligently to implement safety protocols for customers and employees alike in order to survive this unprecedented pandemic,” said Arapahoe County Board Chair Pro Tem Bill Holen. “These targeted restrictions are an attempt to reduce the spread of the virus and not go backwards on capacity limits that could have a devastating impact on our regional economy.”
For more information on how to reduce virus transmission, visit www.tchd.org or arapahoegov.com/covid19.