ARAPAHOE COUNTY, CO — Arapahoe County officials are asking businesses to increase their efforts to comply with public health guidelines after a spike in coronavirus cases. The county has begun sending letters to industries that were allowed to reopen or expand their services under the variance granted to the county June 29.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment requires counties to submit a mitigation plan if their positivity rates rise above certain levels — 5 percent in Arapahoe County’s case. A positivity rate is the percentage of people who test positive among those overall who have been tested.
As of Monday, Arapahoe County's 14-day rolling positivity rate was 4.9 percent, public health officials said. Between July 12 and July 18, there were hundreds of fewer tests than during the preceding two weeks, testing data shows. County officials said they believe the low testing rate contributed to the surge in positivity, but that they "haven't been able to affirm this yet."
If the county's variance exemptions are revoked, some businesses would be forced to close.
The Tri-County Health Department said it's currently monitoring the following conditions (which have not yet occurred):
A substantial increase in hospitalizations directly related to COVID-19 over a 2-week period.
Inability of Tri-County Health Department to conduct case investigation of new cases within 24 hours of a known positive test result.
If a business or operation experiences an outbreak, county public health officials must trace outbreaks back to a specific business or operation and that business or operation must temporarily close and review re-opening protocols.
"To further help mitigate this increase, we need all local businesses to redouble their efforts to monitor, track and enforce the guidelines established by the variance," the county said.
In addition to wearing masks and frequent hand washing, the county issued the following guideline enforcement reminders for certain industries:
Gyms, restaurants and houses of worship: Each may allow for 50 percent of the posted occupancy code, not to exceed more than 175 people in a confined indoor space with a minimum of 6 feet distancing. Restaurants and houses of worship may work with their local authorities to determine how many people they may have in an outdoor space.
Indoor malls: The current requirements limit confined spaces for indoor events to 100 people. The state said that the county’s request of 30 percent building capacity “does not include a total person limit, other than what is calculated using a ratio of one person per 55 square feet. Based on the low-level variance approval, the total limit for an indoor mall for any confined indoor space is 175 people.” State public health officials also stressed that “it is critical for the common spaces within the indoor mall to be well-managed, as described in the variance application, to mitigate gatherings above 10 people and keep traffic flow moving.”