Montezuma County officials announced Wednesday that based on a reduction in COVID cases, the county has decided on its own to drop to the less restrictive Level Blue “caution” category on the state’s COVID-19 Dial.
The decision differs from the more restrictive Level Yellow, or “concern,” category shown for the county by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment.
County public information officer Vicki Shaffer stated in a news release that county leaders have closely followed the data related to what qualifies a county to be at a given level on the state’s dial.
“We now recognize that our data indicates that Montezuma County can safely function under the guidelines outlined at Level Blue,” the news release states. “We trust that CDPHE will agree with that assessment, but each county is best positioned to know the level of COVID disease in their community.”
To drop a level, CDPHE requires the county to meet standards for three metrics.
The county meets the Level Blue requirements for the one week cumulative incidence rate (57.30 per 100K people) and the one week average positivity rate (2.5%).
CDPHE shows the county has not dropped out of the Level Yellow metric of having at least one day with one to two hospitalizations in the past two weeks.
But the county questions CPHE’s calculations. The decision to drop to Level Blue is supported by county health department and Southwest Health System.
SHS CEO Tony Sudduth said COVID-19 hospitalizations have been way down, with just one to two patients in the hospital at a time over the past few weeks. With the trend of few cases, he “feels comfortable” with the county’s decision to drop to Level Blue.
But with new variants of the disease, and health officials cautioned the public to continue practicing safety protocols of wearing a mask, washing hands, social distancing and getting vaccinated to prevent a spike.
Under Level Blue, restaurants and gyms can operate at 50% capacity or up to 175 people, whichever is fewer, with social distancing protocols. Last call for restaurants is extended to midnight.
For entertainment under Level Blue, indoor unseated events can have 50% capacity or 175 people, whichever if fewer, if the venue meets the state’s social distancing calculator.
Indoor seated events can be held at 50% capacity or 225 people. whichever is fewer. Outdoor unseated and seated events are allowed to have 50% capacity, or 250 people, whichever is fewer.
“Out community has made great progress to bring the surge of COVID cases that occurred in late December through early February under control,” said county Commissioner Jim Candelaria in a prepared statement. “Montezuma County’s vaccination providers have done an outstanding job to immunize those at highest risk from COVID illness here. That program continues and will require more to be immunized before we can truly relax. On the basis of our assessment of the COVID situation in Montezuma County, the Board of County Commissioners designates us to be at Blue Level in terms of guidelines for business and community-wide activities.”
As of March 3, Montezuma County reported 122 active cases, down from 183 active cases Feb. 24. The county had no new cases over a two-day period, which has not happened for a while, and this is the second consecutive week without a reported outbreak.
Meanwhile, La Plata County is not faring as well.
Several La Plata County schools have reported new outbreaks of COVID-19 cases, according to state records.
This week included several outbreaks at schools around La Plata County, including:
Children’s House Montessori, where an outbreak was confirmed Feb. 12 after two students tested positive.Durango High School, where an outbreak was confirmed Feb. 25 after one staff member and nine students tested positive. Durango School District 9-R spokeswoman Julie Popp did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Miller Shared School, where an outbreak was confirmed March 3 after one staff member and two students tested positive.Lil’tykes Playschool, where an outbreak was confirmed Feb. 23 after two staff members and one student tested positive. Other new outbreak
Community Connections Host Home, where an outbreak was confirmed March 3 after two residents, two staff members and one visitor tested positive.A Durango youth baseball team, where an outbreak was confirmed Feb. 9 after five players tested positive.A social gathering that led to seven positive tests. The outbreak was confirmed Feb. 23. No further details about the gathering were provided.Active, but previously reported outbreaks include Bayfield High School, Legacy Properties West Sotheby’s International Realty, Needham Elementary School, Park Elementary School and Walmart.The Durango Herald contributed to this report.[email protected]