The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has directed Elbert County to take more restrictive measures to control the spread of COVID-19, by moving the county to level orange-high risk …
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The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has directed Elbert County to take more restrictive measures to control the spread of COVID-19, by moving the county to level orange-high risk on the COVID-19 Dial dashboard.
The county has seen new daily cases in the double digits for the past several weeks, and as of Nov. 11, the number of positive cases totaled 348 PCR-confirmed, which means positive at the time of testing, and 35 serology-confirmed, which showed the person had been infected sometime before the test. The county has one new hospitalization, and three confirmed deaths.
The new restrictions mean all businesses will be restricted to only 25% of capacity, and personal gatherings can only include two households, and not exceed 10 people. Schools will be moving to distance-learning, or a hybrid of distance-learning and in-person learning. Under level orange restrictions, churches should be limited to a maximum of 50 attendees, or 25% capacity, whichever is less. But the county has expressed concern with regulating attendance for houses of worship.
“From a public health perspective, the importance of spiritual health and its contribution to individual and community mental health is critically important during the pandemic,” wrote Dwayne Smith, director of Elbert County Public Health. “We therefore do not wish to impose an additional burden on families by limiting opportunities to worship. Elbert County Public Health is instead requesting that churches limit attendance to a maximum of 100 congregants per service. Individual churches may of course choose to implement a lower maximum allowable number of attendees.”
In the letter from CDPHE to Elbert County, the CDPHE also warned the county that the agency will “reserve the right to move the county to a more restrictive level at any point should circumstances warrant more aggressive sector restrictions.”
Although the number of new cases continues to rise, County Commissioner Chris Richardson said the county has seen no new deaths and a relatively low number of hospitalizations.
“While our cases have risen dramatically, it is at a lower rate than the big counties surrounding us,” said Richardson. “From the beginning, the prevalence of local cases has been tied to travel to and from the metro area and population density. We haven't seen any outbreaks tied to any local business, event or activity.”
Most businesses within the county are small enough that the move to level orange won't have much impact, according to Richardson, but there are a few large establishments that will have to go back to restricting the number of patrons allowed in the store at any one time.
“Most of our businesses, and our restaurants, don't usually hold more than 50 people at a time anyway, but some of our larger stores will have to take more restrictive measures,” said Richardson.
If the county continues to see an increase in the number of COVID cases, and is ordered to move to the most restrictive level of stay-at-home, the impact on businesses would be devastating, as many would be ordered to close, or offer pick-up or delivery services only.
According to Smith and Richardson, it's up to community members to help make sure that doesn't happen, by following protocols for quarantine and self-isolation if they are sick or been in close contact with someone who tests positive for the coronavirus. Unfortunately, they have seen several cases in the community where people have tested positive and disregarded quarantine orders.
“Elbert County Public Health is aware of several instances where individuals under quarantine orders are disregarding the orders and continuing normal daily routines,” said Smith. “They are therefore continuing to spread the virus and infect other citizens.”
Richardson said they have received reports of parents sending children to school who are exhibiting symptoms or sharing a household with someone who is positive, and employees of school districts reporting to work and interacting with others when they're ill.
“Unfortunately, we've had a few recent cases of individuals making poor choices that have greatly impacted our schools,” said Richardson. “Those employees who went to work sick could face disciplinary actions.”
Smith, through his daily update email, reminded residents that there could be legal action taken for disregarding a public health quarantine order. According to Colorado Revised Statute 25-1-114, defiance could result in a fine of up to $1,000 and imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year.
“The last thing Elbert County Public Health wants to do is to have to pursue enforcement of penalties,” said Smith. “Individuals under quarantine orders are strongly encouraged to consider the community-wide implications of their decisions to ignore such orders.”
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