EL PASO COUNTY — COVID-19 numbers in El Paso County have dipped to a noteworthy level on graphics showing the 14 day average of incidents. "It doesn't happen by accident, it takes work," said El Paso County Public Health, Director, Susan Wheelan.
The number just dropped below 350 into the color coded Orange zone. For nearly three months, since October 31st, numbers have been in highest risk red zone. At the one point on December 3rd, the 14 day average topped 1,300 cases a day.
Reaching Orange status allows businesses to operate with fewer restrictions. Colorado Governor Jared Polis along with leaders at Colorado Public Health had recognized the steady downward trend and permitted an early transition to Orange. Businesses like restaurants that were not allowed to have indoor seating can now operate at 25% indoor capacity.
For health leaders the priority is preventing the virus from threatening more lives, but they also recognize the need to protect community economic and education systems. "We know that we're part of a whole,” said Wheelan, “Public Health is not individual, it's about the whole system. So, when we cross over to Orange it does give us some options there."
There are a couple of scenarios that could bring businesses even fewer restrictions at the next lower, Yellow level. It requires the 14 day average to drop below 175 cases.
El Paso County is in the process of joining the state’s “Five Star” program. It creates a way for businesses to apply for variances to pandemic prevention rules.
Staying the course is also an option that seems to also be working. At the current rate of decline, the Yellow level could be reached in a couple of weeks.
"Now we're still not out of the woods,” said Wheelan, “We still need to be careful and cautious, however, this is very encouraging.” There are positive trends happening, yet the numbers remain far from the end goal. It means everyone need to remain vigilant about prevention measures, like wearing masks, washing hands, and social distancing.