Chaffee County Tightens Restrictions As Coronavirus Surge Continues

Michael Elizabeth Sakas/CPR News
Looking for downtown Salida, Colo.? This sign points the way.

As coronavirus cases surge in southern Colorado and around the state, Chaffee County is tightening restrictions beginning Monday.

The county has worked with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) on a mitigation plan to help reduce the spread of coronavirus. The plan includes 25 percent capacity for places of worship, as well as indoor and outdoor events. It also encourages remote work and following the state order of limiting personal gatherings to 10 people from no more than 2 households.

Chaffee County's coronavirus cases stand at a two-week incident rate of 319 per 100,000 people as of this past weekend. That's in part due to an outbreak at Buena Vista Correctional Complex. According to CDPHE's COVID-19 Dial, the county has had a 2.8 percent positivity rate over the past two weeks.

Andrea Carlstrom, director of Chaffee County Public and Environmental Health, said while cases have increased in the county, the hospitalization and positivity rate have remained low. 

"We're doing everything we can with the resources we have to meet the virus head on," Carlstrom said. "We always anticipated a surge around this time, and it's just definitely evolving exponentially."

Carlstrom said it's likely the county will have to continue to tighten restrictions if coronavirus cases increase, potentially moving to the state's Safer at Home Level Orange, one removed from Stay at Home.

Carlstrom said while she understands how challenging it can be to limit social interactions, especially with the holidays coming up, it's an essential part of slowing the spread of the virus.

"If we can course correct now, then perhaps we can have an even more meaningful December holiday season," Carlstrom said. "I know that's going to be tough, certainly as we're navigating pandemic fatigue ... If we could just hold strong for a little bit longer, then we have the chance to actually save lives."

Chaffee County is part of the South Central Region Healthcare Coalition, along with El Paso, Lake, Park and Teller counties. Carlstrom said that these longstanding relationships have helped them "build the strongest response possible" to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

"Knowing my peers in other counties, Colorado has a group of dedicated, passionate, public health professionals that have pretty much given up their own lives to this cause of our COVID response," Carlstrom said. "So, we're not giving up now."