DENVER – The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment released draft guidance Friday evening on a new matrix to identify when various Colorado communities should be in various phases of COVID-19 response and is seeking feedback through Sept. 3.
The CDPHE said that it has heard from local municipalities that they would like a simpler and more predictable process for determining which phase of response it should be in, between stay-at-home, safer-at-home, and protect-our-neighbors phases.
“We need to empower local communities with easy-to-follow guidance, if we are to continue to slow the spread of COVID-19,” said CDPHE executive director Jill Hunsaker Ryan. “We hope the dial will help provide local communities with the flexibility to move throughout the different levels of guidance as necessary to protect public health. We invite everyone to provide feedback on this matrix, so we can make sure it serves the needs of all Colorado communities.”
The new proposal introduces a dial chart, with a matrix that the department says would be used by local municipalities to determine when to further open, or close back down, various types of businesses and events based on the levels of virus transmission.
There are five levels under the proposal: stay-at-home, three phases of safer-at-home, and the protect-our-neighbors phase.
Within the three safer-at-home tiers are levels of “high risk”, “concern” and “cautious,” according to the draft from the CDPHE. The “high risk” level, Level 3, would be for counties seeing increasing virus levels that need to take action but not revert back to stay-at-home measures.
The “concern” level, Level 2, is the current baseline for the safer-at-home order. The “cautious” level, Level 1, is next to protect our neighbors, and will be for counties that have low virus levels but are not quite at the protect-our-neighbors phase.
Which tier applies to a community, under the draft guidelines, would be determined based on metrics involving new cases; positivity rates; whether hospitalizations are decreasing, increasing or flat; the epidemiological trend; anticipated transmission risks in the future; and whether or not a certain number of metrics for the protect0our-neighbors phase are met.
Counties would be able to move to a less restrictive level if they meet all the positive metrics for a two-week period. Counties would also have to notify the CDPHE and local health care providers when they believe they are eligible to move to a less-restrictive level.
But counties would move back to more-restrictive measures if they fall out of compliance with the metrics. They would have a two-week grace period, under the draft guidelines, to regain compliance with a metric, and if they do not, they would have a meeting with the CDPHE to determine the next steps.
The guidelines also lay out suggested metrics for what different types of businesses and education facilities should do depending on what face that community might be in at that point in time.
The department said that it hoped the new matrix will streamline the variance process as well and allow expanded indoor gatherings.
The state says it has convened a working group of local public health agencies, county commissioners, mayors, city managers, hospitals and businesses to consult with on the new guidelines and studied other best practices in various Colorado counties.
The CDPHE said that the state recognizes that each county in the state faces unique circumstances and that it hoped the new guidelines would help alleviate differences between the more-urban and more-rural communities.
The public can give feedback on the guidelines until Sept. 3 at noon by clicking here.