Several Counties Move To Tighter Restrictions As Coronavirus Cases Rise

Denver COVID Pepsi Center Test Site
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
The City and County of Denver’s free, drive-up COVID-19 testing facility at the Pepsi Center on June 23, 2020.

Eight counties, including Adams, Denver and Arapahoe, with high rates of positive tests, case counts and hospitalizations are enacting tighter restrictions to stymie the spread of the coronavirus, as COVID-19 cases rise across the state.

On Sunday, cases hit a record high with more than 2,100 reported. As of Tuesday, Oct. 27, the 7-day average rate on new cases was 1,377 cases and the rate of positive tests was 7.69 percent. More than 1,400 new cases were reported by the state, with 538 people hospitalized.

Last week, the state health department issued an order limiting personal gatherings to no more than 10 people, from no more than two households. Several counties have taken steps to re-institute restrictions, but all are counting on residents to take individual action to prevent a return to April’s statewide shutdown.

Adams County has seen “skyrocketing” cases and moved from Level 2 to 3, which takes effect 5 p.m. Wednesday. That’s the second-highest level available; the next tightest would be the stay-at-home order issues this spring. Restaurants and retail will be limited to 25 percent capacity and gyms can only offer outdoor or virtual services, as compared to Level 2 when 50 percent capacity was permitted for most businesses. 

Denver is also moving to Safer At Home Level 3, while Arapahoe, Otero and Crowley counties are all moving to Safer at Home Level 2, which restricts restaurant and indoor event capacity, indoor events to 100 people, outdoor events to 175 people and outdoor recreation activities like gathering in a park to 10 people. The restrictions in Otero and Crowley counties will kick in on Friday. On Monday, Mesa County moved to Safer At Home Level 1 and La Plata moved to Safer At Home Level 2, according to state reports.

Over the weekend, Elbert County moved to Safer at Home Level 2, according to Dwayne Smith, director of Elbert County Public Health. As of Oct. 28, the county had a two-week positivity rate of 6.61 percent. The county's restrictions will be tighter than that state's Smith said.

"Elbert County Public Health currently has just myself and a part-time Case Investigator/Contact Tracer working on COVID-19 response efforts," he said in an email. "We therefore lack sufficient capacity to conduct investigations and contact tracing in the event of an outbreak affecting a large number of people."

With the transition to Safer at Home Level 2, indoor events in Elbert County can have a maximum of 75 attendees, while outdoor events are capped at 125 attendees. Church services may have a maximum of 50 attendees, or 50% of capacity. Smith said high school football games will be notably impacted by the new restrictions.

Pueblo County is at risk of moving to Safer at Home Level 3 as well, as the county's two-week cumulative incident rate is at 337 cases. Pueblo Public Health Director Randy Evetts said a stay-at-home order is "not inevitable" but the county's numbers are "trending in that direction."

"At some point we have to get control of this virus again before it really causes severe problems for our community," Evetts said.

The local public health department is working with the state on a mitigation plan that will be released later this week or early next week.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the correct number of counties moving to higher levels of restrictions.