• 20200727-132006-4deed08ef3

Jefferson County Public Health says the county is at risk of having some of its reopening allowances for larger gatherings be removed as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

On July 24, JCPH announced that there had been just over 580 new probable and confirmed COVID-19 cases identified in the county over the two-week period lasting from June 27 to July 10. That was nearly 200 more cases than the county saw over the preceding two-week period lasting from June 27 to July 10.

The county’s “Safer-at-Home order variance” from the state says that if the county exceeds a threshold of 580 cases in a two-week period then it must use a mitigation plan for two weeks to try to restore virus transmission levels to the baseline level of 317 cases in a two week period under which the variance was approved.

“At this time, we are looking at how we stem this tide of increased COVID-19 cases, while allowing businesses and other entities to remain open for residents and visitors and not cause any more pain to our economy,” said Dr. Mark Johnson, Executive Director of JCPH, in a statement. “Due to an overall rise in virus cases around the nation and state, many areas are already having variances rescinded, which is causing another closure of certain types of businesses that are still feeling the economic effects of the state’s first Stay-at-Home Order.”

New mask order

Among the steps JCPH is now taking as part of its mitigation plan is to implement Public Health Order 20-008, a new face covering order that requires all Jeffco residents 11 and older to wear a face covering while in all public settings — both inside and outside — where six feet of social distance cannot be maintained.

A statewide mask order issued on July 16 called for everyone to wear a mask in all public indoor spaces.

The Jeffco Board of Health unanimously decided to implement the new order at a meeting held on July 21.

“We know there is great benefit to wearing a mask outdoors when it’s difficult to keep six-foot social distance between yourself and others who don’t live with you and we want this prevention strategy to be as effective as possible,” said Greg Deranleau, the president of the Jefferson County Board of Health. “Mandating masks indoors is also consistent with the requirements set by other local public health agencies in the Denver metro area.”

Like other mask orders, PHO 20-008 does not require face coverings in private residences, traveling in a personal vehicle when traveling alone or spending time with members of one’s household. The order also provides exceptions for medical conditions, certain work conditions, first responder unforeseen emergencies, and for other situations in which the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has explicitly permitted the removal of a face covering. Masks should not be worn by young children under age three, anyone who cannot medically tolerate wearing it, or anyone who is unable to remove it without assistance. The order does not specify an expiration date and will stay in place until it is modified or repealed.

On July 20, JCPH also issued Public Health Order 20-007, which requires venues hosting large events to provide a plan outlining how they will adhere to the state’s Safer-at-Home requirements to help ensure health and safety of staff and attendees.

Under the order, venues holding events with more than one designated activity area, which would permit more than 100 people inside or 175 people outside, must submit a plan to JCPH and receive approval in writing prior to such events taking place. That order is scheduled to remain in effect until Aug. 19, although it can be amended or extended. Large facilities, such as Bandimere Speedway, have been allowed to be divided up into separate activity areas provided the occupants of each area are kept separate from those of other activity areas.

The original Jefferson County variance, granted on June 8 by the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, allowed for more lenient capacity limits for group gatherings across all venues, including places of worship. It also allowed re-opening of shopping malls, fitness centers, brewpubs, distilleries and other venues.

Under the variance, indoor gatherings of up to 50 people or 50% of venue occupancy were allowed while outdoor settings were allowed for 125 people. School graduations were allowed to take place as a part of that variance, with a plan approved by JCPH. The full Jefferson County variance can be viewed www.jeffco.us/4047/Safer-at-Home-Order.