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Lake County’s COVID-19 positive infection rate has risen over the last month. The county hit a two-week positivity rate of 10% on Oct. 15, the highest to date for the county during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lake County Public Health Agency (LCPHA) reported 16 new positive cases of COVID-19 among Lake County residents between Oct. 20 and Oct. 27. The agency is currently monitoring 11 active cases.

“Like many other areas in Colorado and across the nation, Lake County has experienced a recent spike in COVID-19 cases,” Lake County Pubic Health Agency (LCPHA) Director Colleen Nielsen said. “Infectious disease models predict a significant third wave heading into the winter months if we can’t clamp down on infection spread. We are at real risk of being required to shut down again unless positivity rates decrease.”

Lake County has remained in the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s (CDPHE) “Safer at Home Level 2: Concern” category since Sept. 15, alongside the neighboring counties of Eagle, Summit, Pitkin and Chaffee. However, Lake County’s two-week positivity rate of 10% is a cause of concern for CDPHE and LCPHA.

“The rate was high enough that CDPHE is required to monitor Lake County’s data daily to determine whether the county must move into the more restrictive ‘Safer At Home Level 3: High Risk’,” LCPHA Public Information Officer Beth Helmke explained in a press release. CDPHE  identifies “Safer at Home” levels by looking at positive case counts, two-week positivity rates and local hospital capacity.

A shift to CDPHE’s “high risk” level could require restaurants to return to curbside and delivery options, and a variety of businesses to reduce operations. Lake County School District would likely be able to continue a hybrid learning model. As of Oct. 27, Adams and Logan County were the only counties in Colorado to sit at the “high risk” level.

On Oct. 26, LCPHA gained a week-long extension from CDPHE before the state will decide whether to move Lake County into the “high risk” level. In gaining the extension, Nielsen argued that many of the recent COVID-19 cases in Lake County are associated with households rather than community spread and that LCPHA is still able to conduct contact tracing.

CDPHE will determine Lake County’s risk status after meeting with LCPHA, the Board of County Commissioners and the City of Leadville on Nov. 2. According to LCPHA, if Lake County’s positivity rate has not decreased noticeably by Nov. 2, the state will likely require the county to move into the “high risk” level.

LCPHA also amended a local public health order on Oct. 23 to limit the size of general gatherings to 10 persons from no more than two households in response to state guidance.

“CDPHE has flagged us as ‘In Mitigation,’ and if we cannot reverse our trend, we will certainly end up with greater restrictions mandated by CDPHE very soon,” Nielsen explained. “We all need to recommit to the practices we know help reduce infection spread: wearing face coverings, maintaining physical distance, keeping gathering sizes small and staying home when sick.”

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