Broomfield City Council elected to wait when it comes to moving from Level 2 to a less restrictive Level 1 designation under the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Safer at Home Dial Framework.
The third week of September when looking at data, Public Health Director Jason Vahling said he felt more comfortable moving to a less restrictive place, but now feels Broomfield should take a more cautious approach, waiting four weeks and re-examining data before making a decision.
As of Tuesday, Broomfield had met all of the required metrics to move to the less restrictive level, including the fact that the 70.7 per 100,000 two-week cumulative incidence rate is below the required 75 per 100,000, Public Health Director Jason Vahling said at Tuesday’s council meeting.
Broomfield’s two week positivity rate of 2.4% is well below the 5% state threshold and the city and county has had 11 days of declining or stabilized hospitalization rates.
When he prepared the memo Sept. 16, the two-week incidence rate was 53.7 per 100,000.
“In less than one week’s time we’ve seen rates increase quite significantly,” Vahling said. “A lot of this is due to the unpredictability of COVID spread.”
He cited the rise of cases in Boulder last week that was driven by people in the 18 to 25 age group, and said that has contributed to cases increasing in Broomfield.
CDPHE and the county’s epidemiology team are analyzing potential Labor Day impacts now that they are out of the 14-day incubation period. So far they have not seen conclusive data that there was a case increase associated with holiday parties and gatherings, but they will continue to look and see if that changes in the near future.
“While the future is hard to predict and we never know what next week will look like, or the following week, we can look at past data,” Vahling said.
Broomfield stayed below the 75 per 100,000 threshold from May 11 through July 30, he said, which is a significant amount of time. However, after the July 4 holiday the city and county saw spikes. From July 31 through Aug. 17 Broomfield was above the threshold, with the highest rate 131.4% recorded Aug. 8. Then from Aug. 17 through Tuesday it stayed below the threshold again, Vahling said.
Local health officials have reason to believe Broomfield’s two-week case incidence rate will exceed the 75 per 100,000 threshold at some point during the next few months, he said, starting as early as in the coming weeks.
Taking that into consideration, along with schools re-opening, people moving back into offices and flu season, he recommended Broomfield stay at Level 2.
“We want to be very transparent with you and the community,” Vahling said. “Even a slight uptick in cases at this point in time can trigger us to move back from Level 1 to Level 2.”
The major sectors affected include increased capacity limits for larger restaurants and places of worship, Vahling said, as well as indoor and outdoor events. Indoor recreation variances remain the same at both levels.
“We have made all of our decisions based on the data and recommendations of the state health department,” Mayor Pro Tem Guyleen Castriotta said. “This is no different. You have my support. Let’s be cautious and revisit in four weeks.”
Broomfield resident Emily Joo called in to the meeting to encourage the move to Level 1, especially when the data reflects that Broomfield is falling within the parameters outlined by the state. The cases at CU Boulder is more cases than Broomfield has, she said, and the population is smaller. It seems “crazy” that they were required to quarantine for two weeks while Broomfield can’t move to a less-restrictive level.
“That desperation to reopen and get back to normal life has not gone away from me,” Joo said. “Please let’s do it. Let’s hurry and open up.”
Ward 4 Councilwoman Kimberly Groom agreed that not lessening restrictions was “moving the goal posts.”
“I know that as we open back up and pull that Band-Aid off, it’s scary and we see numbers go up,” she said.
One thing she noticed when looking at case counts was the initial COVID peak came down and during the second peak, deaths did not follow that pattern. Ventilators caches and hospitalizations are under control, she said, which shows “we’ve flattened the curve and more.”
She supported putting her foot in the water and opening up more. Whether Broomfield does it now or later, the cases will increase.
Vahling said his decision to remain at Level 2 was also to offer businesses some stability since he believes it likely that if the city changes levels, cases will increase and trigger another change in levels.
As of Friday, Broomfield reported 619 positive COVID cases, 18 hospitalizations and 33 deaths. As of the week of Sept. 14, COVID cases were at 570, there were 56 hospitalizations and 33 deaths.