To reduce community transmission and slow a dramatic rise in cases that threatens our school learning models, our health care system, and our local economy, San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) are moving Archuleta County to COVID-19 Dial Level Orange: High Risk (formerly known as Safer at Home Level 3), effective Monday, November 23.

Until now, low case counts also enabled businesses, schools, and events to be open in-person and avoid exposures and outbreaks. Unfortunately, since November 1st, SJBPH has identified 62 cases of COVID-19 in Archuleta County residents – more than were identified in the entire period from March through September. COVID-19 is now widespread in Archuleta County community, with daily exposures identified in schools, businesses, and special events, and is placing pressure on local hospital capacity. Archuleta County exceeded the Level Orange threshold for new cases on November 13th and since then case growth has accelerated.

To reduce transmission at workplaces and social gatherings and avoid the need for further restriction that severely impacts our schools and economy, SJBPH and CDPHE are moving Archuleta County into Level Orange: High Risk on the state’s COVID-19 dial, which reduces the legal operating capacity for most businesses from 50% to 25% and moves last call for alcohol sales to 10:00 PM. The full list of changes associated with moving levels on the dial can be found at the CDPHE website. This change in public health restrictions will go into effect at 5:00 PM on November 23.

Additionally, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) released an updated public health order that provides necessary updates to the COVID-19 dial framework. The order updates Level Red to indicate counties where there is severe risk of COVID-19 spreading rapidly, closing high-risk indoor businesses and events while allowing some businesses to remain open at very limited capacity. A sixth level, Level Purple: Extreme Risk, has been added to the dial, representing when hospital capacity risks being breached, and most businesses and services must be closed. The updated dial levels go into effect on Friday, November 20. Read a summary of changes.

Archuleta County exceeded the Level Red threshold for cases on November 19. With the onset of winter and more activities moving indoors, the community must act now to cancel social gatherings, move as many employees as possible to remote work, and stay home unless absolutely necessary, to keep everyone safe from COVID-19 and to avoid Level Red restrictions in Archuleta County that would be very damaging to the local economy and make it difficult for schools to offer in-person learning.

“Our community has shown that we can choose to be successful in fighting COVID-19,” said Liane Jollon, executive director of SJBPH. “While cases rose around the state in the fall, we took the steps necessary to keep our schools open and our economy strong. But we are rapidly catching up to the uncontrolled levels of disease seen in the rest of Colorado and we are at risk of serious consequences for our hospitals. We know everyone is tired of this pandemic, and we are so thankful of the sacrifices everyone has made in their workplaces and social lives. We must ask all community members to once again come together and adopt good public health practices to keep our families and neighbors safe,” Jollon said.

“Our staff, parents and students have worked so hard to abide by all the new school safety measures to date, allowing greater educational access than many other districts in the state,” said Archuleta Schools Superintendent Kym Leblanc-Esparza. “To continue to best serve our students’ interests, we need to see new cases slow down, and moving to Level Orange will help us do that. We are grateful that our local officials and SJBPH have taken the leadership action of transitioning Archuleta County to orange on the Safer at Home dial.  We hope the community takes this change seriously and helps keep everyone safe this winter so we can offer in-person learning for the entire spring semester,” LeBlanc-Esparza said.

“We at Pagosa Springs Medical Center (PSMC) are starting to have large numbers of employees quarantined because of the community spread. Therefore, we have a great deal of concern about having enough people to keep all our services, like our ambulances and ER fully staffed,” said Dr. Rhonda Webb, PSMC CEO. “Because of all the cases increasing in Colorado, we had difficulty yesterday in transferring patients to Intensive Care units on the Front Range. Now more than ever it is important for us to move to a higher level of restrictions to help avoid a surge over the next few weeks.  Please help us to flatten this curve,” Dr. Webb said.

The following precautions will be essential to containing the spread of COVID-19 through the winter holiday season:

  • Stay at home as much as possible, and instruct employees to work from home if possible
  • Practice physical distancing (at least 6 feet away from another person)
  • Avoid social gatherings with more than one household, especially indoors
  • Wear face coverings when in public; the statewide mask order is still in effect in indoor public spaces
  • Practice good hygiene (washing hands, covering coughs and sneezes, etc.),
  • Get tested if you have symptoms or believe you’ve been exposed through a known contact or community interaction, and
  • Don’t go to work, school, or social activities if you are sick or have a known or suspected exposure.

For information about all phases of the state’s COVID-19 dial framework for public health protections, visit https://covid19.colorado.gov/data/covid-19-dial.

For the most up to date information on how to take precautions against the spread of COVID-19, visit SJBPH’s website at: https://sjbpublichealth.org/coronavirus/.