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Summit County increases COVID-19 restrictions ahead of a typically busy holiday week

Summit County moves to level red on the state's COVID-19 dial at 5 p.m. Friday.

COLORADO, USA — Summit County will move to level red on the state's COVID-19 dial effective at 5 p.m. Friday, which means there will be changes for residents, business owners and those visiting the county for skiing during the typically busy Thanksgiving week.

Summit County Public Health (SCPH) held a call to review the changes that will be going into effect after it was announced on Wednesday that the county was being moved to red by the state. At this level, restaurants must close for indoor dining, and gatherings of any size are not allowed, which has an impact on lodging occupancy for short term rentals in the county.

Watch the full meeting:

> Find the guidelines for each level on the dial here.

Once the new restrictions go into place, occupancy levels for lodging such as short-term rentals will be restricted to a single household, according to County Manager Scott Vargo. There's no set number of people. 

The prior limit, under level orange, was up to 10 people from two different households.

Vargo said the rule applies as of 5 p.m. Friday even for people who might have had reservations prior to then. That means anyone who stays in short term lodging this weekend with others outside their household will be in violation of the health order.

Officials said property management companies in the area reported cancelations in recent days for Thanksgiving week after the announcement of the impending restrictions was made.

Local health officials said they have seen a slight downward trend in the positivity rate, but also noted that they've seen 12 new hospitalizations in the county in the last 12 days.

"We're just hearing all day that people in our community are scared, and they're frustrated," said Assistant Manager Health, Safety and Human Services for Summit County Sarah Vaine. "They're scared of the virus, and they're scared of what's going to happen with the economy and how they're going to feed their families and themselves and to pay their rent, stay in their homes. These are really, really difficult times for people."

RELATED: What the new purple level means on the state's COVID-19 dial 

Restaurants will be allowed to continue to operate with restrictions at level orange through Sunday at 5 p.m. Health officials said they made that exception because they knew restaurants had ordered food and other supplies for the weekend with the current capacity levels and restrictions in mind.

"It's really important for folks to comply with these restrictions," said Vargo. "We want to be able to control the spread so we can have a more normal winter season. All of those things are under our control."

Vargo said if they follow the protocols they're hopeful they're able to reduce restrictions.

"Whether you're a local, or a visitor, please follow the restrictions so that we can have an opportunity to bend this curve in the right direction and keep it there," Vargo said.

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has said ski areas can still operate even at the red level. They're not allowed to offer indoor dining.

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