Metro Denver counties with rising COVID-19 cases hope public education, targeted orders will stave off new stay-at-home mandates
New COVID-19 cases have increased in much of the Denver metro area, and county health departments are trying to persuade their residents they need to keep their distance to avoid new stay-at-home orders.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s new dial framework places each county in one of five color-coded levels, with increasing restrictions on business capacity and event sizes.
Each county’s level is based on the rate of new cases compared to population, the percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive and how hospitalizations are trending.
As of Friday, 15 counties, or almost one-quarter of the state’s counties, had rates of new cases that could push them to issue additional restrictions if nothing changes. They get at least two weeks to bring the numbers down before more restrictions are on the table, though.
Unlike this spring, when businesses across the state were ordered to shut down, counties are trying to avoid closing large numbers of facilities through awareness campaigns, or targeting orders at populations where the virus is spreading more freely.
John Douglas, executive director of the Tri-County Health Department, said it appears private gatherings are causing a significant portion of the spread in Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties. It’s difficult to be sure, though, because not everyone is cooperating when contact tracers call, he said.
Counties could take action if they get multiple complaints about a household hosting unsafe numbers of people, but most of their efforts are focused on convincing people to wear their masks and keep their distance from others until a vaccine is approved, Douglas said. People are tired of social distancing, but sticking with it increases the odds of avoiding a winter surge and new stay-at-home orders, he said.
“The higher we are through the month of October and early November, the