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This morning 15 more Colorado counties moved into the ‘Red’ zone on the state’s COVID-19 dial, and five more are scheduled to move to ‘Red’ tomorrow. Chaffee County is not yet among them. But with the surge of cases across the state and nation, it  likely means that unless this county can get control of its COVID-19 case load, we will follow other counties into the red zone.

That said, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has added a new color to the wheel – purple — that stage at which health care systems in the counties so designated have been overwhelmed and staying at home is required. Mesa County has already reached that stage, announcing its Intensive Care Unit beds are full.

With purple in place, the red CVID-19 designation no longer means what it did last spring when we were all required to stay home. Red now means extreme risk, it reduces the crowd capacity, and operating conditions of several business and service operations, but it does not require the population to stay at home.

This appears to be a recognition that with such high levels of community spread — it is estimated that as of this week, one in every 49 Coloradans has COVID-19 — that we simply can’t shut down the entire economy again. But with major cautions in place, the hope is that we can keep schools open and operating, where the risk of spread has been shown to be much lower than that in the general population

This graphic from CDPHE deciphers the COVID-19 Dial, explaining the level of restrictions based on the dial colors:

The news of heightened restrictions comes just as the COVID-19 weary population is entering the holiday season. Public health officials are urging people to curtail the size of their Thanksgiving gatherings and refrain from travel, especially air travel.

Nationwide, for the past week, new daily cases of COVID-19 have topped 190,000 and continue to climb, while death rates are nearing 2,000 every day.