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Archuleta, La Plata counties enter Level Blue public health order

Indoor capacity restrictions lifted, but not distancing

Archuleta and La Plata counties have moved into the less restrictive Level Blue public health order, according to San Juan Basin Public Health.

SJBPH Executive Director Liane Jollon said maintaining 6-foot social distancing in indoor spaces as well as wearing face coverings (unless all people present are fully vaccinated) remains in effect.

In Level Blue, however, all capacity restrictions in indoor spaces are lifted, though social distancing must be maintained.

People who are experiencing COVID-19-like symptoms are required to stay at home, Jollon said.

“It’s a simplified Level Blue,” Jollon said. “We’ve taken the most protective parts of the dial and kept them, in an effort to preserve in-person learning (and limit the spread of infections).”

SJBPH’s public health order remains in effect until May 15.

Gov. Jared Polis announced this week the state of Colorado is doing away with the state dial for COVID-19, the color-coded tool for guiding public health orders, like capacity restrictions, to slow the spread of the virus.

Face coverings, however, are still required in public indoor spaces.

Instead, Polis said it is up to local public health agencies to enact protocols that are in line with the virus in their communities.

“We’re confident that with great vaccination progress, shifting the role of managing the pandemic through a statewide restriction can successfully transition to greater responsibility at the local level and, yes, greater responsibility on the personal level as well,” Polis said at a news conference earlier this week.

But Polis also acknowledges that Colorado has entered a fourth wave of infections, driven by more transmissible – and potentially more lethal – coronavirus variants. As of last week, more than half of Colorado’s cases now stem from variants like B.1.1.7, which was first identified in the United Kingdom, and B.1.427/B.1.429, which was first identified in California.

Polis said the end of the dial system does not mean the state is lifting all restrictions, adding that Coloradans should remain vigilant.

“(It) doesn’t mean that the state in any way, shape or form is letting up on our efforts to suppress the virus,” Polis said. “We’re continuing two very important statewide measures to protect Coloradans no matter where you live. We expect that many local governments will go above and beyond these statewide measures.”

Jollon said Southwest Colorado still has a high rate of COVID-19 infections, and it remains unclear whether a fourth wave will hit the community.

But, she said modeling data indicates that if people continue to receive vaccinations, social distance and wear masks, it is likely public health orders will relax even more in May.

Jollon said it is even possible the public health orders will instead becomes advisories, though it is believed the mask ordinance will remain in effect.

jromeo@durangoherald.com

The Colorado Sun contributed to this report.

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