Climbing Coronavirus Cases In Pueblo County May Lead To Loss Of Variances And More Restrictions

October 20, 2020
Pueblo's Union Avenue stretches across the Arkansas River through downtown.Pueblo's Union Avenue stretches across the Arkansas River through downtown.Nathaniel Minor/CPR News
Pueblo's Union Avenue stretches across the Arkansas River through downtown.

An increase in coronavirus cases in Pueblo County over the past few weeks has put the area at risk of losing health variances.

Pueblo County Public Health Director Randy Evetts said positive cases have reached 230 per 100,000 people over the past two weeks. He said the increase is a "significant concern," as it has put the county well above the range of 75 to 175 needed to stay within the state's Safer-at-Home level-two guidelines. 

If cases continue to climb, Evetts said Pueblo will lose all variances and revert to the state's level three Safer-at-Home guidelines. Current variances allow for larger occupancies of bars, wineries, gyms, places of worship and public gatherings, usually with 50 percent capacity or no more than 100 people in indoor spaces. 

Level-three Safer-at-Home guidelines indicate high risk, according to the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE). This would reduce capacity of most places to 25 percent, along with closing bars and reverting gyms to virtual or outdoor services. 

Evetts urged community members to cancel events and large family gatherings, in addition to continuing social distancing practices and wearing masks.

Pueblo Mayor Nick Gradisar said both Halloween and the upcoming holiday season "need to be different" to prevent the continued spread of COVID-19.

"As I've said from the beginning of dealing with this pandemic, there are not any good choices to be made here, only good decisions," Gradisar said. 

He said the city is reducing in-person staffing and moving employees to work from home from Oct. 21 to Nov. 2. He said citizens should do business with the city by phone or virtually. In-person meetings are by appointment only.

The county has two weeks, starting from last Friday night, to improve coronavirus numbers.

El Paso County is also experiencing increasing coronavirus cases, with a rate of 180 cases per 100,000 people. This would move the county out of Safer-at-Home level-one guidelines, which currently allow for larger gathering sizes for places of worship, restaurants, and gyms, usually with 50 percent capacity or no more than 175 people indoors.

The county is set to meet with CDPHE later this week to review prevention methods and coronavirus data over the past few weeks. El Paso County is at risk of moving to a more restrictive level if trends continue.