Larimer County to move into Level Yellow after state releases new COVID-19 metrics

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Larimer County will shift into Level Yellow restrictions starting Saturday morning after the state adjusted its COVID-19 dial metrics. 

As coronavirus case rates continue to drop statewide, Gov. Jared Polis and state health department Executive Director Jill Hunsaker Ryan released new metrics that will allow more counties to move into less-restrictive levels and make it easier for counties to move between restriction levels.

Under these new metrics, Larimer County will shift into Level Yellow restrictions when the public health order goes into effect 9 a.m. Saturday, Ryan said during a Friday news conference. 

Under the new dial’s metrics, counties in Level Yellow maintain 100 to 300 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people and a 7.5% positivity rate in all those tested for a seven-day period, Ryan said. 

As of Friday afternoon, Larimer County had recorded 273 cases per 100,000 people and a positivity rate of 4.8% over the last 14 days, according to the county’s data dashboard. 

Larimer County businesses certified in the state 5-Star program, known locally as the Level Up program, will not be able to move into the less-restrictive Level Blue yet. As part of the new dial, businesses certified in counties under Level Yellow will not be able to operate in Level Blue until 70% of those age 70 and older have received at least one vaccine, Ryan said.

Eligible?:Here’s how to sign up to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in Larimer County

As of Tuesday, 36% of Larimer County residents age 70 and older have received at least one vaccine, county health director Tom Gonzales told county commissioners this week.

Ryan said the state is specifically looking at counties’ seven-day case rates per 100,000 people, testing positivity rates and hospitalization capacities.

Looking at metrics in a 7-day timeframe rather than a 14-day timeframe — as the state did in the previous dial system — will allow counties to move into new levels more quickly, Ryan said.  

For a county to move to a less restrictive level, they must meet the less restrictive level’s metrics for a full 7-day period. The state can choose to move a county into a more restrictive level based solely on a increase in the number of cases per 100,000 people, also referred to as the disease incidence rate, Ryan said.

Tracker:Larimer County and Colorado COVID-19 case, vaccine and hospital data for February 2021

“Disease incidence is really the leading indicator and that’s the indicator we want to watch,” Ryan said.

With this new dial, one capacity level changes. For counties in Level Yellow, restaurants can have 50% capacity or up to 150 people depending on space, an increase from up to 100 people under the previous dial framework. 

Ryan said these changes come after “a real sustained decline (in cases) since November,” except for a few “small bumps” after the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day holidays. 

Most counties have been in Level Orange and Level Red, with some in Level Yellow. Under these new metrics, many will operate in levels Yellow and Blue starting Saturday, Ryan said. 

Earlier this week:330 Larimer County businesses move to reduced Level Yellow COVID-19 restrictions

Sady Swanson covers public safety, criminal justice, Larimer County government and more throughout Northern Colorado. You can send your story ideas to her at sswanson@coloradoan.com or on Twitter at @sadyswan. Support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.