Tri-County Health chief 'cautiously optimistic' about level red COVID-19 restrictions


Last spring as the pandemic emerged, health officials thought “we need to throw the kitchen sink at it” because there was no time to spare and less was known about the virus, said John Douglas, head of Tri-County Health Department.

Now that Colorado is trying a new set of coronavirus-related restrictions — still short of a stay-at-home order — Douglas says he's hopeful that the current measures can stop the state's steep spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

“I am cautiously optimistic that if we can get as many counties as possible to move to this level of reduced community capacity, we have a pretty good chance at turning the curve on community transmission,” Douglas said, referring to the tighter limits under Colorado's new level red.

It's a “kind of halfway step” between level orange and a stay-at-home order, Douglas said.

The new level still allows retail at a “reasonably high level” of capacity and lets personal services — such as hairstyling, massage therapy and dog grooming — stay open at the same capacity as in level orange, Douglas said. He thinks that's “probably reasonable” as long as people wear masks.

Places of worship didn't change capacity between level orange and the new level red, and “I'm a little concerned about that,” Douglas said.

“Houses of worship were early places that were identified as sources of transmission,” Douglas said. “I think it all depends on how the faith leader runs things.”

Actions such as shaking hands, hugging and singing hymns will increase spread, said Douglas, whose department serves Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties.

Whether counties will move to level purple — a stay-at-home order — depends on whether hospital capacity risks being breached, and it's not entirely clear when that might happen.

State health officials recently estimated that point might be reached in late December, Douglas noted.

Read our full story on Colorado's new "level red" of coronavirus-related restrictions here.


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