How Colorado Department of Public Health reviews county variance requests

Posted at 1:37 PM, May 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-19 15:46:48-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — Several counties across Colorado have submitted variance requests to the state health department since the transition into the safer-at-home order.

Counties have been given the option to submit variance requests to the Colorado Department of Public Health if they are able to follow guidelines set by Gov. Jared Polis in his safer-at-home order "through alternative means." The county must have local health department's approval, local hospitals' verification that they have the capacity to serve those who need case, and the approval of county commissioners in order to meet requirements to submit a variance request.

Once the variance is in the state health department's hands, they will review and have it approved with or without modifications by its executive director or follow up by asking for further information. If a county's request is approved, they are still required to monitor data to show these new restrictions are not having a negative impact on the community or healthcare system.

In El Paso County, a variance request has been recently approved by Colorado health officials to allow in-person graduation ceremonies with certain modifications in place. The state health department said the first few ceremonies should be observed by El Paso County Health to make sure the requirements are being followed. To learn more, click here.

The county is currently waiting for a variance request regarding limited in-person dining with restrictions. The resolution lays out requirements restaurants will have to follow if they would like to reopen their dining areas. For more information, click here.

In order to approve, the state health department goes through certain criteria to determine whether the county can do it safely.

Prevalence of COVID-19 in the county

The state health department will look at data provided by the county health department that showcases the reduced number of cases in the county. The data has to show a low number of new cases a day, a declining number of cases over in the 14-day period before the request was made, and/or a declining number of positive tests "as a percentage of total tests" in the 14-day period before the request was made.

Hospital capacity

The county health department needs to show that hospitals have the appropriate amount of ICU begs, ventilators and adequate PPE to handle "standard health care capacity" and the current number of COVID-19 cases. If there is not a hospital within the county's jurisdiction, then they need to "address how regional hospital and health care systems" could be impacted should the county need some of the hospital capacity.

Local containment measures being proposed

The request from the county has to show how it is detecting new cases and how it will contain the threat of an outbreak. The county will need to break down how it can handle COVID-19 testing if there is an uptick in cases and how they will confirm, monitor and follow up with people who were in contact with positive cases.

The proposed alternative restrictions being proposed

Each county's request has to specify which restriction in the safer-at-home order they are asking a variance for and what their alternative restrictions would be.

Conditions and standards used to determine if variance is providing equal protection

The county will have to explain whether the proposed alternative restrictions will provide protection to individuals within the jurisdiction. They will also need to propose a "standard for when, based on current data, restrictions" are determined to not provide the proper protection. It will be based on conditions, such as factors outside the county or a threshold of COVID-19 hospitalizations.