The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) will be implementing new guidelines to its ‘COVID-19 dial’ on March 24, which will make it easier for counties to achieve green or blue status, and loosening some restrictions on counties in those categories.
The dial, originally implemented on September 15, 2020, is a tool that has enabled the state and counties to balance disease suppression and economic activity in a localized manner. It has streamlined the process of moving through different levels and provided simplicity and predictability to how communities operate based on virus transmission levels. The goal of the dial is to preserve the capacity of the statewide hospital system.
“Because of the commitment of all Coloradans, we are where we are now, able to be less restrictive and provide local communities and their public health agencies more control while still protecting the public’s health,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director, CDPHE. “It’s all about a balance. We’ve enacted the restrictions we need to slow the disease while attempting to limit the ramifications of closing down parts of the state and the impacts that come with that.”
The proposed update would make it easier for counties to move into Level Green: Protect Our Neighbors, the least restrictive level on the dial. It would also remove many of the restrictions that currently apply at that level. Additionally, restrictions for bars, retail establishments, offices, and non-critical manufacturing facilities would be relaxed for counties in Level Blue: Caution.
These proposed updates reflect the increasing number of Coloradans who have received a COVID-19 vaccine over the past four months. People ages 70 and older have accounted for 38% of all hospitalizations over the course of the pandemic in Colorado. Nearly 80% of this age group is fully vaccinated, also vaccines will become available to all Coloradans over the age of 16 by mid April. The state’s role in continuing to mandate statewide restrictions is lessening and the role of local communities to regulate and manage the virus is increasing.
The main changes in the Dial 3.0 draft are:
- The metrics for Level Green: Protect Our Neighbors have changed, making it easier for counties to achieve Protect Our Neighbors status. Now, counties can apply for Protect Our Neighbors if they have up to 35 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people — up from 15 cases.
- The metrics range for Level Blue is now 36 – 100 cases per 100,000 people.
- Most restrictions in Level Green: Protect Our Neighbors are now removed. Bars, gyms, and indoor events must still adhere to a 50% capacity limit or a 500-person cap, whichever is fewer.
- Bars can now open under Level Blue. The capacity limit is 25% capacity or 75 people, whichever is fewer.
- Outdoor events in Levels Green and Blue no longer have capacity restrictions under the dial. Counties may choose to implement capacity restrictions on outdoor events at the local level.
- Retail, offices, and non-critical manufacturing in Level Blue may now open to 75% capacity, up from 50%.
- There is no longer a state limit on personal gathering sizes. The state will follow CDC’s guidance on personal gatherings. The CDC still strongly recommends avoiding larger gatherings and crowds to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- 5 Star Businesses in Level Blue can operate up to 60% capacity, not to exceed 50 people above the caps for restaurants and indoor events and 25 people above the cap for gyms.
With more Coloradans receiving their vaccine, the state aims to offer greater flexibility. By mid-April, CDPHE intends to move to a more local model, allowing local public health agencies to assume more control over capacity restrictions that are currently determined by the dial.
Although 78% of all deaths and 38% of all hospitalizations are from Coloradans over the age of 70, 22% of deaths and 62% of hospitalizations are still from people under the age of 70. COVID-19 still presents risks to healthy Coloradans, so everyone should continue to take precautions until they can access the vaccine.
Coloradans can review the proposed changes to Dial 3.0and submit feedback with this formafter reviewing all the draft changes. The deadline for providing feedback is Monday, March 22, at 12:00 p.m. MT. CDPHE will update the draft based on stakeholder feedback. The final guidelines will become available on Tuesday, March 23, and the new dial will go into effect on Wednesday, March 24.
Continue to stay up to date by visiting covid19.colorado.gov.