DENVER — The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) is asking for public feedback on changes it's making to the state's COVID-19 dial meant to ease restrictions and give local authorities more control.
According to CDPHE, "Dial 3.0" would make it easier for counties to move into Level Green: Protect Our Neighbors, the least restrictive level on the dial. It would also remove many of the restrictions that currently apply at that level, CDPHE said.
Restrictions for bars, retail establishments, offices and non-critical manufacturing facilities would also be relaxed under Level Blue: Caution, CDPHE said.
“Because of the commitment of all Coloradans, we are where we are now, able to be less restrictive and provide local communities and their public health agencies more control while still protecting the public’s health,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, CDPHE's executive director. “It’s all about a balance. We’ve enacted the restrictions we need to slow the disease while attempting to limit the ramifications of closing down parts of the state and the impacts that come with that.”
CDPHE said the proposed updates reflect the increasing number of Coloradans who have received a COVID-19 vaccine, including nearly 80% of people 70 and older.
The state's role in continuing to mandate statewide restrictions is lessening, CDPHE said, and the role of local communities to regulate and manage the virus is increasing.
The following are the main changes in the proposed dial, according to CDPHE:
The metrics for Level Green: Protect Our Neighbors have changed, making it easier for counties to achieve Protect Our Neighbors status. Now, counties can apply for Protect Our Neighbors if they have up to 35 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people -- up from 15 cases.
The metrics range for Level Blue is now 36 - 100 cases per 100,000 people.
Most restrictions in Level Green: Protect Our Neighbors are now removed. Bars, gyms, and indoor events must still adhere to a 50% capacity limit or a 500-person cap, whichever is fewer.
Bars can now open under Level Blue. The capacity limit is 25% capacity or 75 people, whichever is fewer.
Outdoor events in Levels Green and Blue no longer have capacity restrictions under the dial. Counties may choose to implement capacity restrictions on outdoor events at the local level.
Retail, offices, and non-critical manufacturing in Level Blue may now open to 75% capacity, up from 50%.
There is no longer a state limit on personal gathering sizes. The state will follow CDC’s guidance on personal gatherings. The CDC still strongly recommends avoiding larger gatherings and crowds to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
5 Star businesses in Level Blue can operate up to 60% capacity, not to exceed 50 people above the caps for restaurants and indoor events and 25 people above the cap for gyms.
Originally implemented in September 2020, the COVID-19 dial is intended to prevent the state's hospital system from becoming overwhelmed. CDPHE said it has enabled the state and counties to balance disease suppression and economic activity in a localized manner. It has streamlined the process of moving through different levels and provided simplicity and predictability to how communities operate based on virus transmission levels, according to CDPHE.
CDPHE said with more Coloradans receiving their vaccine the state aims to offer greater flexibility, with plans to move to a more local model by mid-April. That's when the vaccines are expected to become available to all Coloradans over age 16.
The deadline to provide feedback is Monday, March 22 at 12 p.m. CDPHE said it will update the draft based on stakeholder feedback, and the final guidelines will become available on March 23. The new dial is expected to go into effect on March 24.
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