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How Close (or Not) Level Orange Counties Are to Lower Restrictions

Boulder has submitted an application to take part in the 5 Star program.
Boulder has submitted an application to take part in the 5 Star program.
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In late December, Governor Jared Polis announced that all counties at Level Red on the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's dial dashboard would be switched to Level Orange as of January 4. And should the counties maintain Level Orange standards related to COVID-19 for seven consecutive days after being accepted into the 5 Star State Certification Program, the CDPHE noted, approved businesses would be able to operate at Level Yellow standards — allowing select restaurants and gyms to increase capacity from 25 percent to 50 percent, for example, and move last call from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m.

But three weeks into the new year, only one of eleven Level Orange counties certified for the 5 Star program has met these requirements. Moreover, despite case counts trending downward after late-2020 spikes and other signs that Colorado is doing better than many states in its fight against the novel coronavirus, well over a dozen counties are now engaged in mitigation efforts under CDPHE supervision, or enforcing stricter standards than their dial position would ordinarily dictate because of elevated incidence rates.

Often very elevated.

The Level Red dividing line is set at a two-week cumulative incidence rate of 350. Any county below that point for a week straight can move to Level Yellow restrictions if it's qualified for the 5 Star program. But of the eleven 5 Star counties, only Elbert County is where it needs to be, according to data updated January 21. (Boulder, which is at 316 and just submitted its 5-Star request to the state, has not yet been officially added to the roster by the CDPHE.) Some counties, including Broomfield, Jefferson and Larimer, are relatively close to the 350 mark, but others have quite a ways to go — Denver included.

Here's the latest list of 5 Star applicants and where they stand.

Level Orange Counties That Have Qualified for the 5 Star Program
(Must be under 350 to qualify for Level Yellow restrictions)

Arapahoe
Two-week cumulative incidence rate: 462.2

Broomfield
Two-week cumulative incidence rate: 354.7

Denver
Two-week cumulative incidence rate: 447.5

Douglas
Two-week cumulative incidence rate: 405.1

Elbert
Two-week cumulative incidence rate: 206.1 (Qualifies for Level Yellow Standards)

Jefferson
Two-week cumulative incidence rate: 383

La Plata
Two-week cumulative incidence rate: 501.1

Larimer
Two-week cumulative incidence rate: 370.1

Summit
Two-week cumulative incidence rate: 819.1

Eleven counties are currently in mitigation, a status that requires them to offer proposals to the CDPHE as to how they'll improve their numbers. Several of these — Clear Creek, Lake, Moffat and Park — will likely have this responsibility lifted soon, since they're back under a 350-incidence rate. But numbers in Baca, Montrose and Routt are more than three times higher than that, and other counties are far from the goal, too.

Level Orange Counties in Mitigation

Baca
Two-week cumulative incidence rate: 1490.4

Clear Creek
Two-week cumulative incidence rate: 297.7

Eagle
Two-week cumulative incidence rate: 868

Lake
Two-week cumulative incidence rate: 309.4

Moffat
Two-week cumulative incidence rate: 271.7

Montezuma
Two-week cumulative incidence rate: 867.7

Montrose
Two-week cumulative incidence rate: 1145.8

Park
Two-week cumulative incidence rate: 233.5

Rio Grande
Two-week cumulative incidence rate: 614

Routt
Two-week cumulative incidence rate: 1169.5

Yuma
Two-week cumulative incidence rate: 477

The situation is even more concerning for Gunnison, which is officially at Level Yellow — but its incidence rate is ultra-red. As a result, Gunnison is enforcing stricter public-health orders, as are five Level Orange counties. Pitkin County is doing so, as well — and right now, it's the only county in Colorado that's been moved back to Level Red. Here are the details:

Level Yellow Counties Enforcing Stricter Public-Health Orders

Gunnison
Two-week cumulative incidence rate: 1188.9

Level Orange Counties Enforcing Stricter Public-Health Orders

Chaffee
Two-week cumulative incidence rate: 437.1

Fremont
Two-week cumulative incidence rate: 379.9

Gilpin
Two-week cumulative incidence rate: 144.8

Grand
Two-week cumulative incidence rate: 795.3

Ouray
Two-week cumulative incidence rate: 425.6

Level Red Counties Enforcing Stricter Public-Health Orders

Pitkin
Two-week cumulative incidence rate: 2455.5

Overall, these stats suggest that restaurant dining rooms are unlikely to be half-filled anytime soon in much of Colorado.

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