By Priscilla Waggoner

2020-09-24 21:15:20

As the pandemic enters its seventh month and the numbers of deaths of Americans who are factually proven to be directly related to COVID top the 200,000 mark, indications are that Colorado is, nonetheless, holding its own, especially in comparison to some neighboring states. Colorado cases have been slowly increasing, but the rise is not being reflected in the number of hospitalization, and the state’s positivity rate suggests enough testing is being conducted.

Those positive indications were made even stronger last week when, in a press briefing, Governor Polis introduced a matrix that will provide counties with a clearer idea of where they stand and what they need to do in relation to the current COVID restrictions that are in place.

The purpose of the tool is to “allow counties to reopen their economies to the fullest extent possible while protecting their communities”. It’s also hoped that the tool will make reopening local economies more sustainable as counties can see themselves how their efforts in containing the virus are—or are not--effective.

“We can’t lose sight of what’s at risk - our economy, our health and our livelihoods,” Polis said during the press conference. “We need to do what works by wearing face masks, avoiding large crowds, and physically distancing ourselves in order to continue enjoying more of the Colorado we all love. I’m pleased to launch the new dial framework so our local communities can take even more control over reducing restrictions and further opening their economies, while ensuring that public health and safety are protected.”

Called the “framework”, the tool shows five levels of restriction that range from “Protect Our Neighbors”, the level with the least number of restrictions that allows more people to engage in more activities, to three levels of “Safer at Home” to “Stay at Home”, which has the most restrictions and limits people to staying at home as was true at the beginning of the pandemic.

A county’s standing among those levels is based on what’s shown in three areas of data. “New cases” give an indication of how much the virus is circulating in the county. “Percent positivity” shows whether there is sufficient COVID-19 testing being done to capture the level of virus transmission, and “Impact on hospitalizations” shows if hospitalizations are increasing, stable or decreasing.

Depending upon data from those three metrics, counties move back and forth between levels with the expectation of complying with the described level of restrictions for each. However, to move from one level to another with less restrictions, counties need to meet and sustain all three metrics for two weeks.

The framework is meant to replace the general variance process in most cases, but counties are still expected to stay in a consultation process with CDPHE, which may include moving to a more restrictive level when they don’t meet the requirements for any of the metrics for more than two weeks. Once a county reaches “Protect Our Neighbors” level, for each month that level is sustained, counties can reopen even further. In other words, the more the virus is contained, the more flexibility for the local governments to open.

“Colorado succeeds when our communities are empowered and have the tools they need to keep people safe,” Polis said.

In a significant piece of local news, according to Kiowa County Public Health Department, Kiowa County qualifies for “Protect Our Neighbors”. County commissioners, public health and KCHD can apply for this certification, when ready.

In other news released by Kiowa County Public Health, the Community Test Site is located at Weisbrod Hospital in Eads. Also, the state backlog has been resolved, and turnaround on test results is now back to 2-3 days. Testing is free. Anyone who thinks they may have COVID-19 and are interested in testing are advised to call their health care provider.

There also continues to be a mask mandate in place for anyone over the age of ten in all indoor spaces other than home.

Additional information is available at the following websites.

Long-term Care INDOOR variation guideline was released and can be found at https://covid19.colorado.gov/.

A social distance calculator provides information on how many people are allowed at an event and can be found at https://covid19.colorado.gov/safer-at-home/social-distancing-calculator-for-indoorand-outdoor-events .

If you are tested, you are advised to STAY HOME. Isolation and quarantine guidance can be found at https://covid19.colorado.gov/covid-19-in-colorado/about-covid-19/isolation-andquarantine

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