Arapahoe County has begun sending letters to industries that were included under the variance that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) granted to qualifying Arapahoe County industries on June 29.
A key stipulation of the variance is that CDPHE requires us to submit a mitigation plan if COVID positivity rates increase above certain levels—5% in Arapahoe County’s case. As of July 20, our 14-day rolling positivity rate was 4.9%. Additionally, testing data from the week of the 12th through 18th shows there were hundreds fewer tests than during the preceding two weeks. We believe the low testing rate last week contributed to the surge in positivity, but we haven’t been able to affirm this yet.
Regardless of the reasons behind the increase, the County needs cooperation and assistance from area businesses to help reverse the trend by encouraging staff and patrons to follow the established variance guidelines as closely as possible. If the Tri-County Health Department (TCHD) determines that if certain County and industry-specific conditions occur, TCHD or CDPHE can revoke the variance exemptions, which could result in further business closures. The conditions TCHD is monitoring include:
- A substantial increase in hospitalizations directly related to COVID-19 over a 2-week period.
- Inability of TCHD to conduct case investigation of new cases within 24 hours of a known positive test result.
- If a business or operation experiences an outbreak, TCHD must trace outbreaks back to a specific business or operation and that business or operation must temporarily close and review re-opening protocols.
To date, the County has not experienced any of the above conditions. But given the rising COVID positivity rate, the County is increasing its contact tracing and diagnostic testing capabilities, and also starting an early warning system that tracks 911 data to identify spikes in calls related to COVID-19 symptom reporting.
To further help mitigate this increase, we need all local businesses to redouble their efforts to monitor, track and enforce the guidelines established by the variance. In addition to following guidance around mask-wearing and frequent hand-washing, these include:
- Gyms, restaurants and houses of worship: Each may allow for 50% of the posted occupancy code, not to exceed more than 175 people in a confined indoor space with a minimum of 6 feet distancing. Restaurants and houses of worship may work with their local authorities to determine how many people they may have in an outdoor space.
- Indoor malls: The current requirements limit confined spaces for indoor events to 100 people. The CDPHE said that the County’s request of 30% building capacity “does not include a total person limit, other than what is calculated using a ratio of one person per 55 square feet. Based on the low-level variance approval, the total limit for an indoor mall for any confined indoor space is 175 people.” The CDPHE also stressed that “it is critical for the common spaces within the indoor mall to be well-managed, as described in the variance application, to mitigate gatherings above 10 people and keep traffic flow moving.”
Read the full text of the variance.
The Arapahoe County Board of Commissioners deeply appreciates everyone’s cooperation in helping us spread the word about the safest practices our residents and visitors should follow when they’re outside their homes. By diligently working together to promote these methods and messaging, we can reverse any negative trends and reduce the risk of having to scale back our reopening efforts while also keeping everyone as safe and healthy as possible.