Rising COVID-19 cases in Adams County could lead to tighter social distancing restrictions

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AURORA | Adams County officials said Thursday residents are perilously close to living under more social distancing requirements as COVID-19 cases climb. 

County officials including county manager Raymond Gonzales implored business owners and residents to help contain the virus by wearing masks, social distancing and avoiding “unnecessary indoor gatherings — even with family and friends.”

If cases continue to rise, officials say restaurant capacities could be reduced and gyms would close under Gov. Jared Polis’ “Safer at Home” guidelines. 

“We have been told by the State that if we don’t reverse these alarming trends, we are at risk of further restrictions,” county manager Raymond Gonzales said in a statement. “After six months of dealing with COVID-19, we all know there is no magic button to push. We all have to play our part to reign in these discouraging trends in positivity.”

COVID-19 cases have risen dramatically in Adams County compared to the rest of the Tri-County region, which includes Arapahoe and Douglas counties, according to the agency’s data. 

Last week, Arapahoe County officials said they were implementing a mitigation plan because cases are also rising there too, though not as dramatically.

“Over the past few weeks, the County has been in Level 1 of the State’s Safer at Home public health orders. The incidence increases could move the County to Level 2, which means the County may be at risk of heightened restrictions,” county leaders wrote in a news release. “But there’s still opportunity for businesses and residents to reverse the trends.”

Adams County’s incidence rate — the number of people with COVID-19 per 100,000 residents — was 281.5 Thursday. That’s compared to 140.4 in Arapahoe County and 119.5 in Douglas County. 

Adams County’s incidence rate spiked dramatically during September. That county includes Aurora north of East Colfax Avenue. The sustained increase in positive virus cases also translated into a higher rate of hospitalizations, although that measurement began to drop in late September. Twenty deaths were attributed to COVID-19 in Adams County in September, which is the latest available data. 

County officials will go before the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment next week to submit a virus-reduction plan.

The Cherry Creek School District and Aurora Public Schools COVID-19 safety indexes both indicate that hybrid in-person learning is still possible. However, Arapahoe County’s 14-day incident rate of 140.6 is a red-light indicator on Cherry Creek’s online dashboard.

In a meeting Tuesday with the Aurora school board, Tri-County Health Department director Dr. John Douglas said that he was concerned by the increase in COVID-19 cases in the Denver metro area since Labor Day, which has been more pronounced in Adams County.

It’s more likely that community spread of the virus affects schools rather than schools themselves becoming vectors of transmission, he said.

“I’m really still more worried about community transmission impacting schools than I am the other direction,” he said.

Staff Writer Carina Julig contributed to this report