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Some Boulder City Council members expressed concerns about the state’s plan to reconfigure its color-coded coronavirus dial that would relax the metric requirements that dictate business operating capacity levels in counties, depending on the level of virus transmission.

According to reporting from the Denver Post, which outlines the changes that were announced Saturday, to qualify for Level Orange — the current level for most Colorado counties, and the third most restrictive on the dial — a county must have an incidence rate of new positive COVID-19 cases between 175 and 350 per 100,000 people. Any higher than 350 per 100,000, and a county qualifies for Level Red. Under Dial 2.0, counties would qualify for Level Orange if their incidence rates climbed as high as 499 per 100,000. The current Level Red threshold is defined as above 350 per 100,000 people, and in Dial 2.0 it would be bumped up to 500 per 100,000.

Boulder County’s current two-week cumulative incidence is 282.4 per 100,000 people. Under Dial 2.0, counties with incidence rates between 100 per 100,000 people and 300 per 100,000 people would qualify for Level Yellow, according to a draft plan posted on the Colorado Department of Health and Environment’s website.

The current dial also bases restrictions off of 14-day samples, and under Dial 2.0, that’s set to change to seven days — meaning a county could more quickly move up or down the dial as its metrics change.

Councilmember Rachel Friend said she was grappling with the move to relax restrictions, while Boulder County Public Health continues to emphasize the importance of social distancing, wearing masks and staying home when possible, even as more people are vaccinated.

“On the one hand we’re saying batten the hatches and don’t let our guard down … and on the other hand we’re saying it’s OK to loosen,” she said.

Mayor Sam Weaver agreed, noting he worried about how quickly the county could move down to a less restrictive color on the new dial structure and whether it would negatively impact the city.

“This causes me great concern,” he said. “I have no crystal ball so I have no idea if this is going to be a problem or not. But it sure seems like it’s an area that we’re going to have to watch closely.”

Boulder County Public Health Director Jeff Zayach also had some concerns and questions, though he said some of those concerns were allayed after a conversation with the Colorado School of Public Health.

The county supports the shift to a seven-day incidence and the new ranges, he said.

“Part of the reason why the governor has proposed these changes is because more vaccine is getting into our community, which is going to lower the amount of impacts associated with those high-risk populations of 70-plus,” Zayach said. “That will result in less severe outcomes, less (intensive care unit) admits and less deaths.”

However, Zayach said his department has requested additional information about new metrics of hospitalizations. Further, he said the county needs more information about the potential impact on schools.

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