COLORADO SPRINGS — After a rise in the incidence rate of COVID-19 in the county, health officials are warning that the county's status could be at risk if the numbers continue as they are.
The county tweeted Monday afternoon that, according to the El Paso County Health Department, the rate has risen 36.9% over the last two weeks and that "this concerning rise endangers our county's standing in 'Safer at Home Level 1.'"
"Of concern is our incidence rate, which is currently at the upper threshold of the Safer at Home Level 1 limitations," Public Health Information Officer Michelle Hewitt said. "We would have to exceed an incidence rate of 75 for at least two weeks before we would potentially have to look at moving back a level."
The incidence rate is the number of positive cases out of every 100,000 cases in a two-week period. As of Sept. 25, there were 73.4 cases per 100,000.
While there is no specific factor that has led to the rise in the county's rate, Hewitt said Labor Day celebrations and students returning to in-person learning could have played a part.
There are five levels under the COVID-19 dial: stay-at-home, three phases of safer-at-home, and the protect-our-neighbors phase.
Within the three safer-at-home tiers are levels of “high risk,” “concern” and “cautious,” according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The “high risk” level, Level 3, would be for counties seeing increasing virus levels that need to take action but not revert back to stay-at-home measures.
The “concern” level, Level 2, is the current baseline for the safer-at-home order. The “cautious” level, Level 1, is next to protect our neighbors and will be for counties that have low virus levels but are not quite at the protect-our-neighbors phase.
Right now, the concern for El Paso County is the possibility of moving back to Level 2, which would impact capacity limits.
The state health department determines a county's level based on three metrics: two-week incidence rate, two-week test positivity rate, and hospitalizations.
If a county is "out of compliance with any of the three metrics for two weeks," Hewitt said that is when the county would move back to Level 2. Right now, the county's test positivity rate and hospitalizations remain stable with the concern being the incidence rate.
The county health department is urging everyone to continue wearing masks, practice social distancing and limit gathering in large groups.