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Larimer County is now at Level Orange on state COVID-19 dial. Here's what that means.

Erin Udell
Fort Collins Coloradoan

After nearly six weeks under Colorado's second-highest level of COVID-19 restrictions, Larimer County officially eased into a less restrictive set of rules Monday, reopening restaurants to limited indoor dining and once again allowing small personal gatherings.

The move comes after Gov. Jared Polis announced Wednesday that Colorado has seen a sustained decline in COVID-19 cases and only 73% usage of its ICU beds statewide. Because of this, Colorado counties in Level Red, like Larimer, were to move down the state's COVID-19 dial framework to Level Orange on Monday. 

This is the first time Larimer County has been under Level Orange, which is sandwiched between the lesser Level Yellow (concern) and the more serious Level Red (severe risk). Larimer County had been under Level Red restrictions since Nov. 24, when rising case counts and hospitalizations caused the county to jump directly from Level Yellow to Level Red.

Under a recently amended public health order, businesses in eligible counties can get certified to increase capacity beyond its respective county level through Colorado's 5-Star State Certification Program. The ability to do so will expire 30 days after Jan. 4 if it is not extended, rescinded or superseded by other amendments. 

Certified businesses in Level Orange counties, for example, may be eligible for the less restrictive capacity limits outlined in Level Yellow. Larimer County's Level Up variance protection program was approved late last month. Businesses that received Level Up approval before Larimer County's move to Level Orange must first get approval from the county health department before operating at Level Yellow, according to the state health department.

The amended order also allows authorized gyms in each level to operate at the same capacity as their county's restaurants for the next 30 days. Performing arts groups in Level Red counties can now apply to the CDPHE for special permission to conduct performances or rehearsals in-person without an audience.

COVID-19 in Colorado:Larimer County and statewide COVID-19 case, vaccine and hospital data for January 2021

What life looks like at Level Orange 

  • Coloradans in high-risk populations are strongly advised to stay home.
  • You can once again have personal gatherings of up to 10 people from no more than two households.
  • Places of worship, restaurants with indoor dining, non-critical manufacturing businesses and indoor entertainment events can operate at 25% capacity with a cap of 50 people while socially distanced.
  • For a 30-day period starting Jan. 4, Larimer County restaurants that get approval through the county's Level Up variance protection program can operate under Level Yellow restrictions, which allow for 50% indoor dining capacity or up to 50 people.
  • Last call for alcohol at restaurants, breweries and other establishments is 10 p.m. 
  • Offices must operate at 25% capacity and remote work is still strongly encouraged. 
  • For the 30-day period from Jan. 4, authorized gyms can operate at 25% capacity, with a cap of 50 people indoors while socially distanced. Outdoor exercise at gyms is limited to groups of less than 10.
  • Personal services businesses and limited health care settings must operate at 25% capacity, with a cap of 25 people indoors. 
  • Outdoor entertainment events are limited to 25% capacity with a cap of 75 people.
  • Group sports and sports camps can operate in groups of less than 10.
  • Counties at this level are not eligible to apply for any new variances from the state.
  • Critical and non-critical retail businesses remain at 50% capacity with increased curbside pickup and delivery service as well as dedicated hours for senior and at-risk individuals.

To stay at Level Orange ...

... Larimer County must:

  • Stay below a case incidence rate of 350 per 100,000 people in a two-week period. As of the afternoon of Monday, Jan. 4, the county's case rate was 341 per 100,000.
  • Have a positivity rate of 15% or less over the past 14 days. As of Monday afternoon, the county's rate was 6.7%. 
  • Avoid increasing hospitalization rates in the previous 14-day period. 

You can view the county's current COVID-19 rates on its online dashboard, www.larimer.org/health/communicable-disease/coronavirus-covid-19/larimer-county-positive-covid-19-numbers.

Feeling blue? Seeing red?:Here's your guide to all of the levels on Colorado's COVID-19 'dial'

Erin Udell reports on news, culture, history and more for the Coloradoan. Contact her at ErinUdell@coloradoan.com. The only way she can keep doing what she does is with your support. If you subscribe, thank you. If not, sign up for a digital subscription to the Coloradoan today.