After a week in which 364 new cases of COVID-19 were added to Larimer County’s ongoing count, and with 4.7% of tests coming back positive over the past two weeks, Larimer County issued an emergency public health order that goes into effect at 11 p.m. Friday.
The order places new limits on recreational and league sports and personal indoor and outdoor gatherings, closes alcohol beverage sales at restaurants and bars at 11 p.m. and encourages all noncritical office-based businesses to further increase remote work options and reduce in-person work as much as possible.
“It is critical that we wear masks and maintain social distancing and follow these protocols in order to keep our businesses open and maintain in-person learning in our schools,” Larimer County Commissioner Steve Johnson said in the statement announcing the order, posted on the Larimer County website.
“These guidelines have worked before, and if we all pitch in and work together on this, they will work again and we will get through this,” Johnson said.
Loveland Mayor Jacki Marsh and Fort Collins Mayor Wade Troxell also encouraged citizens to do all they can to bring the case numbers down.
The changes come in response to trends that county health officials said they are seeing.
“Larimer County Health Department’s contact-tracing investigations have revealed that many people who have tested positive for COVID-19 have attended private gatherings, where they were either unknowingly infectious to others or were directly exposed to someone with COVID-19,” an explanation on the county website stated.
The new order limits personal gatherings to no more than 10 people from no more than two separate households.
It limits recreational sports to players who live in Larimer County and the neighboring counties of Weld and Boulder, and organized recreational and league sports are limited to two spectators per player with no more than 50% of capacity, up to 100 spectators in indoor facilities and 175 in outdoor facilities.
It also requires all teams and facilities participating in recreational and league sports to submit complete rosters, schedules, location of games/practices and contact information (with names, phone numbers and email addresses) of all team members or parents of youths who participate before the teams play in any league events, including practice.
Health officials explained that those changes are because Larimer County has seen an increase in cases associated with recreational sports and a difficulty in interjurisdictional contact tracing tied to large tournaments and events bringing in players from outside the county.
They said the limits on sale of alcohol have been an effective step in other jurisdictions, and a growing number of outbreaks across the county, many of which are related to places of employment, prompted the call for more remote work.
“We need to implement these targeted strategies to reduce transmission of COVID-19 in Larimer County, thus reducing illness and a potential surge on the medical system, while avoiding further restrictions on our schools, businesses and places of worship,” Larimer County Public Health Director Tom Gonzales said in the statement on the county website.
“I know we are all tired of this and have pandemic fatigue, but we cannot let our guard down just yet,” Gonzales said. “I have no doubt that we will rally again and reduce transmission just like we did in May and July.”
As of Friday, Larimer County has a two-week incidence rate of 193 cases per 100,000 population, and a two-week test positivity rate of 4.7%, both significantly higher than on Sept. 16, when the incident rate was at 74 per 100,000 population, and the test positivity rate was 2.4%.
COVID-19 hospitalizations in Larimer County have increased to a level that hasn’t been observed since May 19, health officials said.
The county currently sits at Safer at Home Level 1 of Colorado’s dial framework. An increase in cases could lead to Level 2, which would trigger new restrictions, including tighter capacity limits on offices, businesses, restaurants and houses of worship, group sports, gyms and bars and certain outdoor activities.
Larimer County added 31 people to its ongoing tally of COVID-19 cases on Friday, bringing the count since March to 3,627.
All were confirmed with a COVID-19 swab test.
The number of suspect cases did not change Friday, remaining at 491, while the number of deaths remained 55 and outbreaks 69.
Among the new cases, 21 were Fort Collins residents, four Loveland; Berthoud and Wellington had two each, and Lyons and Timnath each had one.
Four children were among the 31 cases, an 11-year-old Loveland boy and 3-, 9- and 13-year-old girls from Fort Collins.
The oldest person affected was a 75-year-old man from Berthoud.
Information is updated daily at larimer.org/coronavirus.