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Public Health - News

Posted on: July 30, 2020

Jeffco's Variance: What’s at Risk, How the County is Responding and What You Can Do

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As we’ve shared with our residents, Jefferson County is seeing a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases. Since the county’s variance was approved by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), we’ve gone from 317 cases (probable and confirmed) in the two weeks leading up to June 7, to 671 total cases for the weeks of July 15-28. With this increase, the county has surpassed its two-week threshold of 580 cases set forth in its first variance, causing the variance to be at risk of being rescinded. Now more than ever, we need our Jeffco residents to stay strong and come together to slow the spread so we can keep our businesses and community open. 

What’s contributing to the increase? 

There are some known behaviors that are contributing to the current increase in cases in Jeffco. For example, many people who have tested positive for COVID-19 have reported to JCPH case investigators that:

  • They have traveled recently, such as to another state where cases are rapidly growing or to other counties where they have come in contact with people outside of their household.
  • They have hosted and/or attended gatherings in private residences or locations, such as gatherings with people outside of their household like BBQs, house parties, birthday parties and weddings.

Similar to the state, we are seeing a rise in cases among young adults ages 20-39. In fact, in recent weeks, almost half of new cases have been among this age group.

What’s at risk?

The county’s first variance allowed many types of businesses and venues to operate with more relaxed restrictions than the state’s Safer-at-Home order (PHO 20-28). If the variance is rescinded, major impacts would include:

  • The gathering size in Jefferson County will be reduced to 10 individuals unless another exception in the state’s PHO 20-28 applies (e.g., events, places of worship, etc.).
  • Athletic fields would have to reduce their capacity to no more than 25 players per field.
  • Gyms would have to reduce their capacity to only 25% capacity or 50 people per room, whichever is less. Smaller, independent gyms may really be hurt by this because we have heard that generally, having to go to less than 50% capacity makes it nearly impossible for them to stay open.
  • Breweries, distilleries and similar businesses would have to close if they do not serve food (currently, these types of businesses may operate under our variance without serving food, as long as they follow the state’s restaurant guidelines).
  • Business activities that are not addressed in Executive Order D 2020 091, as amended by 2020 123, have been allowed under our variance to operate at 50% capacity. If we lose the variance, these businesses will be limited to 10 or fewer people per room.

Jefferson County also submitted a request for a second variance on June 18, which would further open businesses. However, due to the rise in cases across the state, CDPHE has put a pause on reviewing variance applications. The county’s second variance application will not move forward if we cannot reduce our cases below the state’s limits.

What’s JCPH doing?

JCPH took quick action and is currently implementing a mitigation plan to help decrease our cases below the state’s threshold. Some of our actions include:

  • Implementing new policies, including Public Health Orders 20-007 and 20-008.
  • Increasing case investigation and contact tracing, including partnering with CDPHE to increase surge capacity. This is one of the best tools we have to quickly identify cases and prevent the spread to and from individuals.
  • Increasing community-based testing by working with community partners to provide additional testing locations to meet our community’s needs.
  • Supporting area businesses, including providing additional support to help our business community understand what to do if they have an employee and/or customer diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • Increasing public information, including launching a public information marketing campaign aimed at educating the public about risks of COVID-19 related to everyday activities and safer alternatives.

What can you do?

Everyone can help keep our businesses open and community safe by taking the following actions:

  • Avoid traveling when possible, especially to other states or areas where there is heightened transmission of COVID-19. If you must travel, take steps to make it safer.
  • Don’t host or attend house parties, like BBQs or birthday parties, with people who do not live in your household. If you do host a gathering, keep it to a small group of people and do it outdoors. You should still wear a face covering and maintain physical distance.
  • Review the risks of everyday activities and choose safer alternatives.
  • Continue to follow important public health precautions, including wearing a mask, staying six feet away from others who don’t live with you and washing your hands often.
  • If you have symptoms of COVID-19, get tested and isolate yourself from others.

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