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KUNC is here to keep you up-to-date on the news about COVID-19 — the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — Colorado's response to its spread in our state and its impact on Coloradans.

As Colorado Grapples With Third COVID-19 Wave, Counties Return To Tighter Restrictions

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A sign in Denver about mandatory face masks in July 2020.

Colorado’s top public health officials say the state is in the midst of a third wave of the novel coronavirus. State epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said positivity rates for the virus have more than doubled in the last few weeks.

“We’re almost at the same level of hospitalizations that we saw this spring and with current transmission rates we expect to exceed that level in the next two or three days,” Herlihy said.

Models indicate that if case numbers continue their current trajectory, they could overwhelm ICU hospital capacity by late December.

Dr. Eric France, the state’s chief medical officer, warns a critical peak could come even sooner with increased spread of the virus during the holidays. He urged Coloradans to reduce holiday travel and limit contact with people outside their household.

A growing number of counties across the state are entering more restrictive safer-at-home levels. These include:

Boulder County

The state health department announced it will move Boulder County to Safer at Home Level 3 (Orange/High Risk) beginning Friday.

The move is due to a rapid increase in new COVID-19 cases and a high percent of positive tests in Boulder County. The county will remain at this level until case numbers decline. If case numbers get worse in Boulder and other high risk counties, there's a possibility a stay-at-home order could be issued.

Summit County

Summit County is adding a 10 p.m. curfew beginning Friday. In addition to the curfew, businesses will be limited to 25% capacity under new Safer at Home Level 3 (Orange) restrictions. The county now has a positivity rate of 14%.

In a Facebook message to residents, county commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said while she knows the move will be tough for people, it’s necessary to save the county’s important ski season.

“Our winter economy is on the line and it’s up to us to put it back on track and make sure it can happen,” Lawrence said.

Summit County is home to four ski resorts, including Breckenridge, Copper Mountain and Keystone.

Larimer County

Larimer County is the latest to lose its eased COVID-19 public health restrictions. The county had been on the second least restrictive tier offered by the state, Safer at Home Level 1 (Blue/Cautious), but after weeks of new cases exceeding the state’s threshold the county has now been moved to the middle tier, Safer at Home Level 2 (Yellow/Concern).

“We are at a critical juncture with our community response and we are asking all our residents to increase their diligence and limit their interactions in the community,” said Tom Gonzales, Larimer County's public health director, in a press release. “The recent increase in cases and hospitalizations in Larimer County mean that we all must redouble our efforts to slow the spread of the virus.”

There are two more tiers above Safer at Home Level 2, the most restrictive being a return to a stay-at-home order. No counties are at that level yet. Logan, Denver and Adams counties currently most restricted by the state at Safer at Home Level 3.