County pushes back on COVID dial change

Local officials decide not to implement measures called for by state

Tabatha Stewart
Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 4/6/21

After several weeks of qualifying for level blue-caution on the Colorado COVID dial framework, residents of Elbert County began looking forward to relaxed restrictions. Then Gov. Jared Polis …

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County pushes back on COVID dial change

Local officials decide not to implement measures called for by state

Posted

After several weeks of qualifying for level blue-caution on the Colorado COVID dial framework, residents of Elbert County began looking forward to relaxed restrictions. Then Gov. Jared Polis announced the new COVID Dial 3.0 March 24, which could relax restrictions even further.

But just when it looked like the county was heading back to a state of pre-pandemic normal, the Elbert County Health Department received notice from the Colorado Derpartment of Public Health and Environment on March 26, stating the county’s number of cases from March 13-23 mandated a move back on the dial to yellow-concern.

The ever-changing criteria and overlap of mandates and changes frustrated Elbert County officials, who notified CDPHE that the county would not be implementing measures to return to yellow status, despite the March 26 notice from the state.

“Elbert County Public Health feels that a move to level yellow at this point in our pandemic coordination and response would be counterproductive, and not in the best interests of businesses, schools and citizens,” wrote Dwayne Smith, director of the Elbert County Health Department, in his daily update. “Elbert County Public Health has informally and respectfully shared with CDPHE that the county will not implement measures aligned with level yellow restrictions on the dial.”

“We felt that it was not worth telling people about the change,” said County Commissioner Chris Richardson. “Our resources are better used to focus on availability of vaccinations. Based on the way the public health orders are written, once you move to higher status you have to get back down to move to the lower status again. We were already moving downward when they asked us to move to the tighter restrictions. A few bad days shouldn’t be the basis of punishing the entire county.”

According to Richardson, the change to yellow would have only affected gyms and restaurants, which would have had to return to 50% capacities.

“None of the CDPHE offenders that would put us back to yellow were in gyms or restaurants,” said Richardson. “The majority of our cases in the county are within families. We have 12,000 citizens that leave the county each day to go to work. Our restaurants and gyms are not an issue when it comes to new cases.”

Richardson said with the dial framework set to expire in April, making changes within the county doesn’t make sense, and they will instead focus on expanding opportunities for residents to get tested and vaccinated. The county is working with Elizabeth School District and Elizabeth Fire to create vaccination clinics and testing sites.

“This has been a long year, and people have been doing a good job of protecting themselves and their neighbors,” said Richardson. “But it’s been hard, we’ve seen a jump in suicides from an average of about four a year to 13 this last year. We really need to be able to focus on what’s right for our community.”

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