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Boulder County moving to more stringent COVID restrictions on Friday

The change means further limits on businesses and in-person gatherings, including those not held in public spaces. 

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In what could be a big blow to small businesses, Boulder County on Friday will move to more-restrictive health guidelines in response to a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases and the percentage of positive tests.

The move to Safer at Home Level Orange: High Risk on the state’s dial dashboard — which was previously called Safer at Home Level 3 — was announced Wednesday afternoon by Boulder County Public Health. 

The county will remain at that level until there is an improvement or worsening of COVID-19 case activity in the county, according to the health department.

The change means further limits on businesses and in-person gatherings, including those not held in public spaces. 

Capacity at restaurants, places of worship and non-critical manufacturing facilities will be limited to 25% or 50 people, whichever is fewer. 

Offices and retail will be limited to 25% of capacity. Gyms, fitness centers and personal services will be limited to 25% or 25 people, with outdoor activities capped at 10 participants. 

Personal gatherings will be limited to no more than 10 people from two households, while indoor public gatherings will be allowed a maximum of 25% of capacity or 50 people, whichever is fewer, with seating configurations based on the state’s space calculator, according to the release. 

Outdoor events will be limited to 25% of capacity or 75 people, and again the space calculator should be used to configure seating. 

“There may be additional guidance for services such as when patrons are seated versus standing, or indoors versus outdoors. Capacity allowances are summarized in the CDPHE dial level chart,” the county health department stated in the news release. 

More guidance by sector is available on the CDPHE Safer at Home website.

Summit Tacos owner Alejando Rodriguez last week, well before the increased restrictions were announced, said any further limits on capacity would be a blow to small businesses such as his. 

“We hope that the county doesn't implement phase 3 of the Safer at Home order, that will really hurt every small business in the county again,” he said. 

Rodriguez added that more support from the city for grants and monetary help would be a much-needed lifeline. 

“There is a grant available right now but we haven't been able to get all the paperwork ready, we wish the process was easier,” he said. “They want businesses to have proof of hardship, but every business has faced hardships since the beginning of the pandemic.”

The incidence of new cases of COVID-19 among Boulder County residents in the past two weeks is 312.1 per 100,000, according to the Colorado Department of Health and Environment’s dial dashboard, the county health department stated in the news release. Safer at Home Level Orange begins at 175 cases per 100,000 population, and the Stay at Home protocol begins at 350 cases per 100,000 population, according to the county. 

The five-day rolling average of daily cases among county residents is 98 cases per day, which is higher than any other time —  except the University of Colorado Boulder surge in September — since the start of the pandemic, according to the news release.

At Safer at Home Level Orange, remote, hybrid, or limited in-person learning is suggested for K-12 and higher education, according to the release. 

In-person learning for preschool through high school is now defined as “critical business” and local districts can determine how to format education based on local factors. Boulder County Public Health in the release stated it will continue to follow state guidance and support the models in place at Boulder Valley and St. Vrain Valley school districts. 

“This is devastating, especially because we know that we can prevent the transmission of this virus and this change will impact our businesses severely, as well as our social and emotional health. This comes down to all of us taking personal responsibility to avoid social gatherings, wear a mask, maintain at least 6 feet of physical distance and (being) diligent about washing hands,” Jeff Zayach, Boulder County Public Health executive director, stated in the release.

“This is not the time for social gatherings. We need to be diligent to prevent further restrictions from being applied to Boulder County. Please, take a hiatus from socializing for now, stay home if you’re sick, and strictly follow isolation and quarantine guidance if you test positive or are exposed. If we don’t, our businesses may not be able to stay afloat.” 

The county health department in announcing the change pointed to the most recent modeling report from the Colorado School of Public Health that suggests “communities must act now to reduce transmission in order to avoid levels of infection that could strain the health care workforce and hospitals.’
“The report also suggests that, on the current trajectory, hospitalizations will likely exceed the April peak and if transmission continues over the holidays, ICU capacity could be exceeded by the end of the year,” according to the release.

— Leader staff members Julie Baxter and Silvia Romero Solís contributed to this report.