Summit County businesses to limit customers starting Wednesday because of COVID-19 spike

Restaurants, gyms and other businesses in Summit County will be limited to one-fourth of their capacity starting Wednesday morning, as the state tries to get a new spike in COVID-19 cases under control.

The ski resort-heavy county announced Monday night that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment had ordered it to move to Level Orange, the third-most restrictive level in the state’s dial framework. Changes take effect at 6 a.m. Wednesday.

Under that level, most businesses are limited to 25% capacity and restaurants can’t serve alcohol after midnight. Businesses that completed the Five Star certification program, which verifies they are doing extra cleaning and can trace customers if there’s an outbreak, can continue to operate at half capacity.

The state determines each county’s restriction level based on the number of cases compared to population, the percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive and whether hospitalizations have increased over the last two weeks.

Summit County — home to Breckenridge, Silverthorne and Frisco — has reported 351.8 cases for every 100,000 people over the past week, meaning roughly one person out of every 285 tested positive in seven days. To get back to Level Yellow, where businesses can operate at half of capacity, the county would have to get its case rate below 300 for every 100,000 people.

Only Pitkin County has a higher number of cases, compared to population, though its numbers have started to fall since moving to Level Orange in late March.

About 9% of tests in Summit County came back positive over the last week. The limit for Level Yellow is 7.5%, and anything higher than 5% suggests a county isn’t finding all infections.

Hospitalizations haven’t increased significantly in Summit County over the last two weeks, however. The county has the eighth-highest vaccination rate in the state.

Summit County Commissioner Josh Blanchard criticized the move to Level Orange as “short-sighted,” since the state has promised to give counties more control of their restrictions starting in mid-April.

“Given our county’s unique circumstances with our out-of-town visitation rate and the fact that spring break peak weeks have just ended, we are anticipating that our numbers will begin to fall on their own,” he said in a news release. “We know that the capacity restrictions will have an adverse effect on our businesses, our workforce and our community.”

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