Jefferson isn't the only county in Colorado to take this step. Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas and Larimer counties have also transitioned from low to medium, all topping 200 cases per 100,000 as measured by their one-week incidence rate on the COVID-19 dial dashboard maintained by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Mineral County was already at medium, and according to stats updated today, May 24, both San Juan and Costilla could be there soon.
The medium-level designation doesn't come with the return of the most severe restrictions. According to Jefferson County Public Health, "Masking is now required in nonmedical congregate settings serving at-risk populations, which include homeless shelters, prisons, jails, community corrections, substance use and day treatment programs, and adult day centers and day programs. These locations must require masking of participants, visitors and staff when COVID-19 community levels are medium or high in accordance with the COVID-19 Community Levels. Participants and visitors must wear face coverings, staff must wear medical grade masks or respirators."
In addition, health-care facilities in Jefferson County must require patients, visitors and staff members to don face coverings, too — and any employee working in such settings who's not up to date with COVID-19 boosters and vaccinations "must wear medical-grade masks or respirators at all times." Meanwhile, members of the general public are encouraged to get vaccinated and/or boosted and mask up in what are described as "indoor, high-risk settings," but aren't required to do so.
Dr. Sarah Rowan, JCPH's medical director, believes COVID counts are unlikely to decrease over the next month, but is hopeful that the revised rules can be lifted by the end of June.
The one-week cumulative incidence rate for Jefferson County on May 24 is 213.1 per 100,000 residents, putting it at Level Yellow (between 100 and 300 cases per 100,000 residents) on the COVID-19 dial. And it's not alone. Of Colorado's 64 counties, 25 are at Level Yellow or above, including Arapahoe (207.3), Larimer (247.4), Douglas (212.8), Broomfield (212.2) and Denver (240.8). Boulder, Costilla and San Juan counties are at Level Orange owing to a one-week cumulative incidence rate of 312.8, 315.5 and 420.2, respectively.
The May 24 numbers are even worse under the two-week cumulative incident rate relied upon by the state during the first year of the pandemic, but no longer a dial standard: Level Green (less than 25 cases per 100,000), Level Blue (between 25 and 75), Level Yellow (between 75 and 175), Level Orange (between 175 and 300) and Level Red (more than 300). Using this standard, nineteen mostly rural counties are at Level Green by the two-week cumulative incidence rate: Baca, Cheyenne, Conejos, Crowley, Custer, Dolores, Hinsdale, Huerfano, Jackson, Kiowa, Kit Carson, Mineral, Phillips, Prowers, Saguache, San Juan, Sedgwick, Washington and Yuma. Two more (Delta and Otero) are at Level Blue, and sixteen are at Level Yellow (Alamosa, Archuleta, Grand, Gunnison, Las Animas, Lincoln, Logan, Mesa, Moffat, Montezuma, Montrose, Morgan, Park, Pitkin, Rio Grande and Teller).
That leaves nineteen counties at Level Orange: Adams, Bent, Chaffee, Clear Creek, Eagle, Elbert, El Paso, Fremont, Garfield, Gilpin, Lake, La Plata, Ouray, Pueblo, Rio Blanco, Routt, San Miguel, Summit and Weld. And eight others are at Level Red. Of that Level Red group, Jefferson County actually has the third-lowest two-week cumulative incidence rate on May 24 — and the current rates hit by Douglas, Arapahoe, Costilla, Larimer, Broomfield, Denver and Boulder are similar to those in April 2021, when indoor masking, capacity restrictions and more were common in many jurisdictions across the state.
Today, of course, more than 70 percent of eligible Coloradans are considered fully immunized against the virus, and others have varying degrees of protection against infection after having contracted and recovered from the disease. But case counts and hospitalizations are going up anyway — and not just in Jefferson County.
Here are the eight Colorado counties at Level Red for the two-week cumulative COVID-19 incidence rate on May 24, ranked in ascending order:
400.9 two-week cumulative incidence rate
401.6 two-week cumulative incidence rate
403.2 two-week cumulative incidence rate
413 two-week cumulative incidence rate
463.2 two-week cumulative incidence rate
480.5 two-week cumulative incidence rate
492.8 two-week cumulative incidence rate
651.6 two-week cumulative incidence rate