By Mark Craddock
LAS ANIMAS/HUERFANO — As of Saturday, Feb. 6, both Huerfano and Las Animas counties saw an easing of public health restrictions as the counties moved to safer levels in the state’s COVID-19 dial. Huerfano County jumped two levels – from “orange – high risk” to “Blue – cautious” – while Las Animas County went from level orange to “Yellow – cautious.”
The move coincided with an overhaul of the state’s dial system, which also went into effect Feb. 6. “Dial 2.0,” as the state is calling it, is designed to be quicker and more responsive to the local ebbs and flows of case counts, hospitalizations and deaths that the previous schema.
“Dial 2.0 is designed so that counties can swiftly move into more restrictive levels when their numbers go up, and more quickly into recovery when their numbers go down,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Executive Director. “Input from our partners helped us tailor the new dial to best serve the needs of Coloradans at the local level. Since the dial’s last major change in November, Colorado has begun distributing COVID-19 vaccines throughout the state. More people now have immunity to COVID-19, including people over 70 and frontline health care workers. This relieves the strain on our hospital system.”
With vaccinations going up and levels of COVId-19 infection dropping, the CDPHE said the new metrics in “Dial 2.0” better reflect “a balance between disease suppression and economic activity.”
Under previous dial rules, the CDPHE analyzed local numbers every two weeks. In the new schema, the state will analyze data every week.
Local public health director Kim Gonzales said the community has worked diligently in doing the right thing to help the two counties move down the dial.
“We have made progress with vaccinations, we are increasing the availability of testing and with prevention activities such as wearing masks, social distancing and frequent hand washing,” she said. “We must all understand this pandemic isn’t over yet. We must not let our guard down now but continue with these personal behaviors.”
Las Animas County Numbers, Restrictions
Under level yellow, Las Animas County must maintain 100-300 new cases per 100,000 people and no higher than a 7.5% positivity rate. The county’s current one-week cumulative incidence rate stands at 131.1 per 100,000 and its one-week positivity rate is 3.3%.
In the past week, the Las Animas HuerfanoCounties District Health Department reported 11 new COVID-19 cases in Las Animas County. As of Feb. 5, the county had a total case count of 937, with 35 active cases and 11 deaths.
Under level yellow restrictions, high-risk populations are still advised to stay at home. Personal gatherings of upto 10 people from two households are allowed. Childcare can open and the health department suggests in-person education for pre-K through 12thgrade schools, while higher education can engage in in-person, remote or hybrid as appropriate.
School settings do not change in Dial 2.0. according to the CDPHE, and capacity limits remain the same, with the exception of restaurants in Level Yellow, which may now have up to 150 people when using the social distancing calculator — up from 100 people.
Last call on premises is 11 p.m. Bars remain closed.
Offices may operate at 50% capacity, though remote work is still strongly advised.
Gyms, critical and non-critical retail, personal services, limited health care settings and indoor unseated events and entertainment may operate at 50% capacity or 50 people, whichever is fewer. Indoor seated venues may operate at 50% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer.
Huerfano County Numbers, Restrictions
Under level blue restrictions, Huerfano County must maintain 15 to 100 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people and must have a positivity rate no higher than 5%.
The county’s cumulative incidence rate currently stands at fewer than eight cases in the past two weeks, statistically too low to calculate a per-100,000 incidence, according to the CDPHE. Its one-week positivity rate is 0.5%.
According to local public health statistics, the county has seen one new COVID-19 case in the past week. As of Feb. 5, Huerfano County’s total case count stands at 306, with nine active cases and 18 deaths.
Under level blue, school pre K-12thgrade are open for in-person instruction. Restaurants may operate at 50% capacity or 175 patrons, whichever is fewer, with a last call of midnight on premises. Bars remain closed.
Offices may operate at 50% capacity. Gyms and fitness facilities may operate at 50% capacity or 175 people, whichever is fewer. Critical and non-critical retail may operate at 505 capacity. Personal services and limited healthcare settings may operate at 50% or 50 people, whichever is fewer.
Indoor events, both seated and unseated, may operate at 50% capacity or 175 people, whichever is fewer, and outdoor events, seated and unseated, may operate at 50% or 250 people, whichever is fewer.