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The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) released Dial 3.0, a new update to the Colorado COVID-19 dial framework. The updated dial and public health order went into effect on Wednesday, March 24.

As Governor Jared Polis explained in a press conference announcing the updated dial and public health order, “Under this latest change, it will be easier for counties to move into the lowest level of restrictions. What’s more, it will also remove many of the restrictions in place for those in level green. Bars and indoor events will still be capped at 50 percent capacity, with a maximum of 500 people.”

Chaffee County Public Health (CCPH) anticipated the updated dial, and while they may move the county to the Green Level in the near future, Chaffee will be staying in the updated Blue Level until further notice. The updated Blue Level offers more flexibility and fewer restrictions, as do other levels.

Level Green

  • Changes to Level Green make it easier for counties to reach Protect Our Neighbors status. Counties can qualify for the Green Level if they have 35 or fewer COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people, which eases up from the previous quota of no more than 15 cases. 
  • There is also no longer a certification process for Level Green. Counties will be moved once they maintain the required levels for at least a week. 
  • While most restrictions are removed in Level Green, bars and indoor events must still adhere to a 50 percent capacity limit or a 500-person cap, whichever is fewer. 

Level Blue

  • The metrics range for the Blue Level is now 36-100 cases per 100,00 people.
  • Bars can open under Level Blue with a capacity limit of 25 percent or 75 people, whichever is fewer. 
  • Restaurants may operate at 100 people capacity with six feet of distance. 
  • Outdoor events in Levels Green and Blue are not limited by state-level capacity restrictions under the new dial. However, counties may choose to continue to implement capacity restrictions on outdoor events at the local level.
  • Retail, offices, and non-essential manufacturing in Level Blue can open to 75 percent capacity, an increase from the previous 50 percent.

Also, there is no longer a state capacity limit to personal gatherings, though the state will follow CDC guidelines on personal gatherings. The CDC highly recommends avoiding large gatherings and crowds to prevent spread. 

Small counties, meaning those with a 2019 DOLA population of fewer than 30,000 people, may choose to move to the Green Level when they go seven consecutive days with an incidence rate lower than 35 cases per 100,000 people or seven consecutive days with a rolling comparable case count between zero and ten and have stable (no more than a 25 percent increase) or declining counts of new confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations in the county’s referral hospitals in the last two weeks compared to the previous two-week period or no more than 2 new hospital admissions on any day in the last 14 days.

Health Cautions Remain as County ‘Learns to Live’ with South African Variant

“While the launch of Dial 3.0 is a welcome one by many sectors due to the decreased restrictions, this is not the time for us to let our guard down,” says Andrea Carlstrom, Director of Chaffee County Public Health. “We still have a long road ahead to get as many people vaccinated as possible to reach an optimal level of protection. Dial 3.0 and the future of the dial do not mean that we are doing well in our fight against the pandemic.”

“The lifting of restrictions does mean that we are making a significant impact through vaccine distribution while learning to live with this novel virus among us. The South African variant B.1.351 outbreak in Chaffee County is cause for concern, as this variant is looking to be more contagious and potentially resistant to vaccine and treatment. CCPH is working closely with CDPHE to assess the risk of transmission of the South African variant on Chaffee County incidence, and therefore, a special vaccination clinic will be scheduled on Sunday, March 28th to accelerate rates and increase protection.  It is going to take all of us to get ahead of this evolving situation.”

State officials currently anticipate that Dial 3.0 will stay in effect until mid-April, at which point the state plans to retire the dial and implement a new public health order that will redirect more control over capacity restriction to local public health agencies. In Chaffee County, the local public health order will be in effect through April 16 unless otherwise extended, rescinded, or amended in writing and is aligned with the new changes in Dial 3.0.

The new COVID-19 Dial will be reviewed at the Chaffee County Leadership Roundtable on Monday, March 29, to determine whether shifting to Level Green is appropriate, or when that might occur. That decision will take into account the incidence impacts due to the rise in cases of the South African B.1.351 in the northern end of the county, as well as Spring Break travel and activities.

The updated dial does not change the current statewide mask mandate.

The current facemask Executive order by Governor Jared Polis exists separate from the dial changes. It is due to expire on April 3, at which point the governor may choose to make modifications to the mandate. Modified mask order components were released as part of the state’s Dial 3.0 stakeholder engagement process, and feedback received through that process will be considered ahead of the mandate’s expiration.