The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on Oct. 23 moved to limit personal gatherings in most counties to no more than 10 people, effective immediately.
Under the new order, those 10 people must be from two or fewer households — so two families of five people each is allowed, but not five couples who each live in separate homes, for example.
In a statement announcing the new restrictions, CDPHE pointed to recent data showing that since July, more people have been testing positive for COVID-19 after attending social gatherings with multiple households.
“We need to keep gatherings smaller and with people from fewer households — we are asking everyone to ‘shrink their bubble’ to reduce the spread,” Jill Ryan, CDPHE’s executive director, said in the statement. “Please take every effort to reduce contact with members of other households.”
Some counties, including Denver, Arapahoe, Adams and Boulder, recently implemented their own limitations on gathering sizes. In cases where local restrictions are more stringent than the state’s, the local orders apply.
Local health agencies under the Protect Our Neighbors level — those in Moffat, Rio Blanco, Mesa, Gunnison and Gilpin counties — aren’t required to adopt the order.
The order comes at a time when COVID-19 hospitalizations are increasing in Colorado and nationwide.
CDPHE data shows 446 people hospitalized for confirmed COVID-19 as of Oct. 22 — the most since May 20 — and an additional 101 people with potential cases.
The New York Times reported Oct. 23 that the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the U.S. has risen 40% over the past month.
Approximately 41,000 people are now hospitalized across the country, according to the Times.
In Colorado, Adams, Logan, Sedgwick and Yuma counties have the highest rates of new cases. Each reported more than 440 new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people over the past two weeks, according to CDPHE.
Colorado’s seven-day average of daily new cases is among the highest it’s ever been — though health officials say testing limitations in the spring mean there were many more COVID-19 cases than were actually reported early in the pandemic.
For the week ending Oct. 21, an average of 1,015 daily new cases of COVID-19 were reported across the state.
That’s an 8.8% increase from the week ending Oct. 14, and a 48% increase from the week ending Oct. 7.
Higher test positivity rates prove that cases aren’t just increasing because of more testing. The seven-day average test positivity rate was 5.81%, meaning a higher percentage of tests are coming back positive than since early June, when the state was testing far fewer people.