Coronavirus

Level Red Colorado Counties at Risk of Being COVID Superspreaders

El Paso County, home of Colorado Springs, has put the state's dial dashboard in the rearview mirror.
El Paso County, home of Colorado Springs, has put the state's dial dashboard in the rearview mirror. YouTube
On April 16, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's dial dashboard, which dictated COVID-19 restrictions for counties, transitioned from compulsory to advisory even as a new wave of the novel coronavirus was washing over the state.

Over the past week, the number of counties with case counts at Level Red on the dial has grown from eleven to seventeen. Of those, seven are currently operating entirely outside dial recommendations, with officials in those counties removing all but the most minimal state restrictions. Health experts worry that the excising of these standards gives the virus a greater chance for continued growth despite the steady rise in Coloradans vaccinated against it.

Three days prior to the dial change, Westword published "Colorado Counties That Could Dump COVID Safety Rules This Week," which focused on the 37 most politically conservative counties, as judged by their backing of President Donald Trump in the 2020 election. Of those, five had current case counts at Level Red, established as a two-week cumulative COVID-19 incidence rate over 350 infections per 100,000 residents, including the three largest — El Paso County, home of Colorado Springs; Douglas County, in southern metro Denver; and Weld County, anchored by Greeley. The other eight Level Red counties in the state on April 13 were Archuleta and Teller, which also went for Trump, as well as Summit, Eagle, Pitkin, Pueblo, Larimer and La Plata.

One week later, on April 20, all eleven of these counties remain at Level Red, and they're now joined by six more, including metro-area counties Denver, Adams and Arapahoe. But there's a marked difference in response between the pro-Trump counties and those that voted for Joe Biden. Of the seven conservative counties, six have entirely ditched the dial directives and are now only bound by the revised public-health order; the seventh, Archuleta County, is overseen by San Juan Basin Public Health, which also monitors more liberal La Plata County. Meanwhile, just one of the pro-Biden counties (Grand) has dumped the dial.

Here are the seventeen counties whose current COVID case numbers put them at Level Red on April 20; where available, we've juxtaposed the figures for today with those from one week ago. The conservative counties are printed in bold, while the names of the others are italicized.

Adams County
Operating at: Level Blue
Level of two-week cumulative incidence rate on April 20: Level Red (396.6)

Arapahoe County
Operating at: Level Blue
Level of two-week cumulative incidence rate on April 20: Level Red (355.7)

Archuleta County
Operating at: Level Blue
Level of two-week cumulative incidence rate on April 20: Level Red (578.5)
Level of two-week cumulative incidence rate on April 13: Level Red (378.5)

Denver County
Operating at: Level Blue
Level of two-week cumulative incidence rate on April 20: Level Red (352.8)

Dolores County
Operating outside Dial Dashboard
Level of two-week cumulative incidence rate on April 20: Level Red (392.7)
Level of two-week cumulative incidence rate on April 13: Level Green (fewer than eight cases in the past two weeks)

Douglas County
Operating outside Dial Dashboard
Level of two-week cumulative incidence rate on April 20: Level Red (481)
Level of two-week cumulative incidence rate on April 13: Level Red (442.4)

Eagle County
Operating at: Similar to Level Blue
Level of two-week cumulative incidence rate on April 20: Level Red (417.7)

Elbert County
Operating outside Dial Dashboard
Level of two-week cumulative incidence rate on April 20: Level Red (386)
Level of two-week cumulative incidence rate on April 13: Level Orange (299.8)

El Paso County
Operating outside Dial Dashboard
Level of two-week cumulative incidence rate on April 20: Level Red (398.9)
Level of two-week cumulative incidence rate on April 13: Level Red (395.2)

Grand County
Operating outside Dial Dashboard
Level of two-week cumulative incidence rate on April 20: Level Red (375.4)

Lake County
Operating with modified Dial Dashboard
Level of two-week cumulative incidence rate on April 20: Level Red (383.6)

La Plata County
Operating at: Level Blue
Level of two-week cumulative incidence rate on April 20: Level Red (414.1)

Larimer County
Operating at: Similar to Level Blue
Level of two-week cumulative incidence rate on April 20: Level Red (406.2)

Pueblo County
Operating at: Level Yellow
Level of two-week cumulative incidence rate on April 20: Level Red (452.1)

Summit County
Operating at: Level Yellow
Level of two-week cumulative incidence rate on April 20: Level Red (464.8)

Teller County
Operating outside Dial Dashboard
Level of two-week cumulative incidence rate on April 20: Level Red (362.8)
Level of two-week cumulative incidence rate on April 13: Level Red (402.3)

Weld County
Operating outside Dial Dashboard
Level of two-week cumulative incidence rate on April 20: Level Red (410.5)
Level of two-week cumulative incidence rate on April 13: Level Red (364.2)

Here's a summary of the public health orders that remain in place statewide:

• Requires that all businesses and government entities consider reasonable accommodations for individuals who cannot access or cannot take COVID-19 vaccines, follow the mask executive order, and strongly encourages following CDPHE sector guidance for disease mitigation
• Requires 6 feet distancing and masks for mass indoor gatherings, defined as gatherings in public indoor spaces that exceed 100 individuals, and caps these gatherings at no more than 500 people absent a variance. Exempts places of worship, retail settings, restaurants that have seated dining and do not have gathering spaces that allow for more than 100 people to congregate, and allows local public health agencies to approve proms and graduation plans in excess of these caps in accordance with CDPHE guidance.
• Requires schools to follow the CDPHE schools and child care outbreak guidance and further requires that when learning is all remote, extracurricular activities are not authorized in person.
• Requires CDPHE approval of all outdoor seated, ticket event venues in excess of 30,000 square feet, in consultation with the local public health agency.
• Continues existing hospital reporting requirements
• Continues authority for CDPHE to require additional restrictions for any county when a county's resident hospitalizations threaten to exceed 85 percent of hospital or hospital system capacity
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts