Montrose County residents and businesses will now be subject to fewer pandemic-related restrictions as the county was added to the “green” level on the state’s COVID-19 risk dial.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment determined Montrose County fit the necessary metrics: Seven-day incidence rate of 0-35 cases/100,000 people, no greater than 5% positivity, and sufficient local hospital bed capacity.

Montrose County was meeting those metrics as of Monday, April 6, when it remained in the “blue” risk category, according to a weekly update by Dr. Joe Adragna, pandemic specialist for the county.

At the time, he estimated roughly 75% of the county’s population had either recovered naturally after contracting the virus and/or attained full immunization, accounting for the dropping case counts and decreasing hospital census, the latter of which had been decreasing or stable for the 14 days prior to Monday.

Two days later, on Wednesday, Montrose County announced it was officially in the green, which cuts the number and types of places where face coverings are required and eases capacity restrictions. (See more below).

“The numbers are coming down,” Commissioner Keith Caddy said Wednesday. “I think we’re getting close to herd immunity in Montrose. We’ve focused on the at-risk groups over the last three months with our vaccination program, which I think was extremely successful.”

Montrose County, with partners that include Montrose Memorial Hospital, River Valley Family Health Center, pharmacies and other providers, had administered nearly 22,000 doses of vaccine as of Monday, per Adragna’s update. This week, the partners anticipate administering between 820 and 1,000 doses, he said.

Statewide, about 1.8 million residents have received at least one dose of a vaccine and 1 million are fully vaccinated.

Adragna said the numbers of people who have now been vaccinated, both in the state and nationwide (62 million are considered fully vaccinated) should serve to reassure people who are on the fence. “If you haven’t got a vaccine but are on the sidelines, please consider it,” he said.

Caddy said he’s pleased with the vaccination numbers he has been seeing; his only question relates to how long the vaccines might provide protection, which he said was “a big unknown question.” He hopes to see vaccines be effective for at least a year after their receipt.

“The more people we get vaccinated, the better off we’ll be in the long run,” Caddy said.

The time has come for restrictions to ease, he also said.

Falling on the risk scale to green means masks are required only in certain settings — although individual businesses are not precluded from requiring their use.

Masks still must be worn in or at:

• Preschool through grade 12 schools (including extracurricular activities), childcare centers and services, and indoor children’s camps;

• Public areas of state government facilities, and areas in state government facilities where members of the public come into contact with state government employees;

• Congregate care facilities, including nursing facilities, assisted living residences, intermediate care facilities, and group homes;

• Prisons;

• Jails;

• Emergency medical and other healthcare settings (including hospitals, ambulance service centers, urgent care centers, non-ambulatory surgical structures, clinics, doctors’ offices, and non-urgent care medical structures);

• Personal services; and

• Limited healthcare settings.

Under level green, businesses, activities and gatherings can operate without capacity restrictions other than the restrictions resulting from 6 feet distancing, except for: bars, smoking lounges, unseated indoor events, organized indoor recreational youth or adult league sports, indoor children’s day camps, residential camps, youth sports day camps and exempt single skill-building youth camps.

These businesses and activities can operate at 50% of pre-pandemic capacity, not to exceed 500 people.

Indoor seated events may seat up to 10 people together including non-household members; however, if a seated indoor event will exceed 500 people, the event operator or organizer must consult with CDPHE.

“I think we’re ready for level green,” said Caddy. “As more people under age 60 get vaccinated, I think we’ll be really in the clear in our area. I think most of us are ready for COVID to be over with. I think people are tired of our daily lives being restricted and controlled by the government and the rules that came from CDPHE to keep us safe.”

Restrictions should not be one-size-fits-all, Caddy also indicated; what is good in Denver might not work in Montrose and vice-versa.

“I think Montrose County is ready and I think the people are ready,” he said.

For more information on COVID-19 in Montrose County including vaccination opportunities, please visit montrosecountyjic.com. The site also contains the current public health order 20-36 and a one-page chart summarizing the capacity limitations for businesses in all dial levels.

Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.

Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.

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