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COVID-19 Update: Denver Joins Counties in Colorado Virus Red Zone
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COVID-19 Update: Denver Joins Counties in Colorado Virus Red Zone

The big news coming out of Governor Jared Polis's July 21 press conference regarding Colorado's response to COVID-19 was his decision to issue a temporary, thirty-day order for any business with a state liquor license to stop serving or selling alcohol at 10 p.m. But revelations about counties losing ground in their fight against the novel coronavirus, discussed during the gathering by Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Executive Director Jill Hunsaker Ryan, are far more ominous.

Ryan said that fifteen Colorado counties granted variances from the state's current Safer at Home and in the Vast, Great Outdoors public-health order, issued on June 30, have been informed that they've fallen beneath the health level that empowers them to moderate and adapt rules about businesses allowed to open, capacity percentages and more — and have just two weeks to reverse this trend before potentially losing their variances. In addition, Ryan revealed, a handful of counties without variances now have a disease incidence above 100 cases per 100,000 residents, a designation that places them in what she called a "red zone" that requires close monitoring and greater coordination with state officials.

Ryan didn't name any of the counties. But the CDPHE subsequently shared with Westword the names of the 21 counties in question, as well as the details of their current situations. And yes, Denver County is among them.

According to the CDPHE, the department sent a letter "to all counties with approved variances that have a two-week cumulative disease incidence rate in excess of fifty people per 100,000 population. The letter instructs counties to either submit a mitigation plan to CDPHE or confirm that they are moving the county entirely to the requirements of the Eighth Amended Public Health Order 20-28 with no variances, allowing only for more stringent restrictions to be imposed by the county."

The counties that received the letter include many along Colorado's urban corridor, as well as other less populous municipalities. Those given two weeks' notice to improve things or lose their variances: Denver, Douglas, Adams, Arapahoe, Larimer, El Paso, Prowers, Mineral, Grand, Eagle, Garfield, Custer, Chaffee, Broomfield and Pitkin.

The counties without variances that are now in the red zone: Sedgwick, Cheyenne, Montrose, Fremont, Dolores and Gunnison.

The department notes: "Counties do not need to wait to receive this letter to begin a mitigation plan. As soon as they notice that they have passed one of their suppression thresholds, they should notify CDPHE and begin implementing their mitigation plan. Mitigation plans can include strategies such as policies that promote greater social distancing, increased testing and contact tracing, and education campaigns that promote mask wearing and other protective behaviors."

More details are available in the CDPHE's open data portal. The statistics collected in the section marked "Positive Cases and Rates of Infection by County of Identification" are historical in nature, based on all county reports since the pandemic began. Together they provide a much clearer picture of how these counties wound up in Colorado's red zone.

Here are the key stats for each of them, updated July 21, and listed in ascending order by rates per 100,000 residents — all but one of which are over the 100-per-100,000 benchmark:

1. Dolores County
County rate per 100,000: -1
County number of positive cases: 2

2. Fremont County
County rate per 100,000: 162.8
County number of positive cases: 77

3. Custer County
County rate per 100,000: 202.92
County number of positive cases: 9

4. Grand County
County rate per 100,000: 239.11
County number of positive cases: 37

5. Larimer County
County rate per 100,000: 322.81
County number of positive cases: 1,112

6. Prowers County
County rate per 100,000: 372.58
County number of positive cases: 45

7. Douglas County
County rate per 100,000: 401.64
County number of positive cases: 1,357

8. Cheyenne County
County rate per 100,000: 429.65
County number of positive cases: 9

9. Sedgwick County
County rate per 100,000: 483.52
County number of positive cases: 10

10. El Paso County
County rate per 100,000: 515.96
County number of positive cases: 3,604

11. Broomfield County
County rate per 100,000: 524.1
County number of positive cases: 362

12. Montrose County
County rate per 100,000: 558.45
County number of positive cases: 235

13. Pitkin County
County rate per 100,000: 894.9
County number of positive cases: 154

14. Garfield County
County rate per 100,000: 897.89
County number of positive cases: 528

15. Arapahoe County
County rate per 100,000: 942.67
County number of positive cases: 6,075

16. Adams County
County rate per 100,000: 1013.54
County number of positive cases: 5,133

17. Chaffee County
County rate per 100,000: 1073.5
County number of positive cases: 215

18. Denver County
County rate per 100,000: 1188.64
County number of positive cases: 8,429

19. Gunnison County
County rate per 100,000: 1222.85
County number of positive cases: 202

20. Eagle County
County rate per 100,000: 1558.43
County number of positive cases: 850

21. Mineral County
County rate per 100,000: 2187.9
County number of positive cases: 17

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